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Gollin's Preseason Blog -
by Jeff Gollin

Pats Lose Gronk/2 Others to Injury
Sat. Sept. 10. - TE Rob Gronkowski and O-Line starters, Nate Solder and (former Card) Jonathon Cooper were downgraded to "Out" for the opening game vs. the Cardinals. The Gronk was considered arguably the top TE in the country and - together with recently acquired TE Martellus Bennett - was expected to create matchup nightmares for Patriot opponents. The absence of LT Solder and RG Cooper and Sebastian Vollmer (PUP list) along with the release ofOC Josh Kline leaves the NE offensive line somewhat shredded. Bill Belicheck may find it difficult to rely on TE mismatches without Gronkowski along with protection of QB Jimmy Garoppolo operating behind a shakier offensive line.

While BA and the Cards might breathe a sigh of release, the typical NFL football game has a habit of pulling a few surprises out of its butt; so I'd be wary of smiling too broadly (or too soon). Let's play the game. Then - if we win - we can grin a little.


Cards Restock Practice Squad
Sun. Sept. 4. - Eight of the Cards cut from the 53-man Cardinal roster made it back to the Cardinal practic squad, and 2 QB's from the outside were reported signed.

The eight PS players are: RB Elijhaa Penny, WR Britt Golden, WR Chris Hubert, TE Ifeany Momah, TE Hakeem Valles, OT Givens Price, LB shaq Riddick and CB Harlan Miller. QB Aaron Murray (Chiefs) and Zac Dysert (Dolphs) have joined the PS according to Adam Schefter, and assuming the report is accurate, would round out the remaining 2 open spots on the practice squad. The only Cardinal players cut this week and signed by another team were QB Matt Barkley (Bears) and Matt Farley (Colts).


Second Round of Cuts... Many Surprises
Sat. Sept. 3. - To make it short and sweet, Cards released 23 players and 11 of those cuts took me by surprise. By position: QB Matt Barkley...RB's K Williams, Penny...WR's Golden, Shipley, Hubert, Bundy...TE Momah,...OC Boggs, OG McClain...OT Crisp, Price...DT Bryant...LB Ridick, Okpalaugo, Butler...CB Brooks, Miller, Hartfield, Zamort...S Farley, Clemons. Cards added former veteran KC WR Marcus Cooper via trade for a conditional 2018 draft pick.

Disagreements over keeping one player over another is a matter of opinion (that's why they pay SK and BA the big bucks). But I was surprised we're only keeping two QB's, Taylor over Penny or KW at RB, 5 WR's and 3 TE's. Everything still isn't written in stone. There's a practice squad to fill and the possibility of trades or waiver pickups.We have to assume, though, that many guys we hope to pick up will never fall to us at waiver position #29. Stay tuned to your TV or PC tomorrow to see who winds up on our PS.


First Round of Cuts... No Surprises
Tues. Aug. 29 - Cards released QB Jake Coker (waived/injured); WR Amir Carlisle, WR Frankie Okafor, TE Gerald Christian,OT Clay DeBord, OG Jake Bernstein, LS Daniel Dillon, DT Iosia Iosia, CB Mike Jenkins (IR), CB Asa Jackson, CB Shaun Prater, S Tyrequek Zimmerman, P Garrett Swanson

By my count, that's 13 cuttees. (2 cuts to go - I'm guessing that the Cards want to check with the medics to determine whether one or more iffy players should be IR'd or whether two more healthy players should be released). To put things in perspective: By this coming weekend, the Cards will have to pare 22 players from their roster (from 75 to 53 so, to quote BA, this initial round of 15 cuts was relatively "easy"). Update: Cards reached their 75-man limit by placing CB Elie Bouka on IR and waiving CB Alan Ball.

The only two current cuts causing my eyebrow to twitch a little were second-year TE Christian (who had an uphill battle trying to break into a loaded TE room) and Swanson (only bcause we hoped for an uprade from our current punter, Butler).


What Time is it, Boys & Girls?... It's Cutdown Time!
Mon. Sept. 30 - - With the unpleasant taste of the five-turnover, 34 - 24 loss to the Texans still richocheting throughout our stomachs, our attention immediately "pivots" (i.e. buzzword of 2016) to roster cuts. Cards have to drop 15 players by tomorrow afternoon. But, since the final cutdown from 75 to 53 players comes within a week after that, we might as well view the process as one gigantic "coach wants to see you...bring your playbook" cutdown orgy that takes place between now and (I think it is) Sept. 3. Some random roster-battle observations based on yesterday's game:

Barkley may have bought a week's extra time and figures, at least, to be on the PS...We are three deep in quality RB's but, at #4 - S Taylor is said to have suffered a "slight" knee injury and could wind up being IR'd. We don't think KW saw action and even a big back like Penny needs a half-step more burst....Neither Fitz nor Smoke saw action at WR. Looks like Golden may have secured the #6 spot (although it's possible (a) we only keep 5 or (b) we trade one of our top 6 and move up Golden and/or Shipley or Hubert...Mixed reviews on the OL: Some like our run blocking by both starters or backups. Others would prefer to see a veteran tackle brought in as backup...Competition along the Front 7 remains intense - everyone looked good...Nkemdiche did OK (3 tackles including a TD-stopper) but didn't "leap tall buildings"...CB continues to be a bit iffy - Bethel looked flat out rusty, got torched deep and lost a few jump battles. Peterson didn't play. Jenkins (knee?) may be out for most or all of the season...Brandon Williams still makes rookie errors but continues to have a steady growth-track from day to day. We didn't see much of Cariel Brooks. The Badger was supposed to see action now that he's off the PUP list, but he held himself out of action. Special Teams (both return and coverage) still need a lot of work...That is all. Keep your eyes on the transaction-wire between now and tomorrow PM.


Houston Preview..
Sun. Aug. 28 - Cards are on National Fox this afternoon. Fans are waiting to see the offense to wake up after two mediocre showings so far this preseason. Expect the first half to focus on how sharp our starters look as a unit, with the second half devoted to roster battles (BA has said that there will be roughly 20 guys fighting for 8 roster spots - as you'll see, I have 20 guys fighting for 12 spots). This will be the first time we get to see how Nkemdiche looks. Also of high interest: roster battles on the DL, corner and safety.

The following is my attempt to figure out who the 20 dudes are fighting for the 8 spots on the roster. assume that those 8 spots will be #45 - #53 (which means that 45 guys have (barring injuries) locked up roster spots. These players figure to be:

QB (2 spots/2 filled. No spots open) - Palmer and Stanton

RB (4 spots/ 3 filled. 2 fighting for 1 spot) - D Johnson, C Johnson, Ellington, Taylor vs. K Williams

WR (6 spots/5 filled. 3 battling for 1 spot) - Fitz, Floyd, Ja Brown, Jo Brown, Nelson, Golden vs. Shipley vs. Huburt

TE (4 spots/4) filled. No spots open) - Niklas, Gresham, Momah, Fells

OL (8 spots/6 filled. 3 fighting for 2 spots) - Veldheer, Iupati, Shipley, Mathis, Humphries, Watford, McClain vs. Toner, vs. Boehm

DL (9 spots/6 filled. 4 fighting for 3 spots) - Campbell, Peters, Gunter, X Williams, Nkemdiche, Rucker, Bryant vs. Stinson vs. Mauro (Olsen a darkhorse)

LB (8 spots/ 4 filled. 6 fighting for 4 spots) - Golden, Minter, Bucannon, Jones, K Martin vs. G Martin vs. Fua, vs.Clemons, vs. Okpalaugo vs. Christian

DB (9 spots/8 filled) - Peterson, Bethel, Jenkins, Mathieu, Jefferson, B Williams, T Branch, Swearinger, Brooks vs. Farley vs. Miller

ST (3 spots/2 filled. 2 fighting for 1 spot) - Butler, Catanzaro, Kanady, Dillon

My (admittedly shaky) math has us ending up with 22 guys competing for 13 openings:

S Taylor and K Williams fighting for the 4th RB spot.

Golden, Shipley and Huburt battling for the 6th WR spot.

McClain, Toner, Boehm (with Wetzel a darkhorse because we have a need for backup tackle) duking it out for 2 remaining OL spots

Bryant, Stinson, Mauro (with Olsen a darkhorse) fighting for 3 spots on the DL

K Martin, G Martin, Fua, Clemons, Oklpalaugo and Christian (moving to $LB fr safety) competing for 4 LB spots

C Brooks, Farley and Miller fighting for 1 DB spot.

Kanaday and Dillon fighting to be out long snapper.

(Note - I took liberties with position-delineations in light of the hybrid role of the Dollar-LB ($LB) - is he a linebacker or a safety? I am also assuming that Riddick's injury will remove him from LB contention. And, of course, our fingers are crossed that the Injury Gods don't bite us). Enjoy today's game.


Off the Field...
Thurs. Aug. 18 - Some things are more important than football: Our hearts and prayers to the Bidwill family who lost their Mom, Nancy Bidwill to breast cancer at the age of 84. Cardinal family had a minor scare when Coach, Bruce Arians spent a night in the hospital over the weekend with stomach pains - for what he advised was diverticulitis and "no big deal." (He returned to action and is "back in the saddle").

On a more upbeat note - the Cards emptied their PUP list and placed Frostee Rucker, Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Bethel on the active roster (but don't expect themto be ready to see any action in San Diego).

Not Practicing - WR's John Brown (concussion), and Brittan Golden (hamstring), OC Taylor Boggs (calf), OG Earl Watford (knee), DT's Ed Stinson (muscle), Robert Nkemdiche (ankle) and Iosia Iosia (unknown), LB Alex Okafor (unknown), CB's Alan Ball (unknown) andAsa Jackson (leg)

Returned to Practice - NT Corey Peters (plantar fasciitis), CB Mike Jenkins (broken hand)

Roster Battle Update
Tues. Aug. 16 -

Quarterback (2)
I'm not sure what the latest League policy is regarding the ease or difficulty of establishing a "Practice Squad Shuttle for 3rd string QB's, so I'll go with the CW that says we go with 2 QB's: Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. They are what they are - Aside from an occasional hiccup, Palmer has a great supporting cast and is at or near the top rung of NFL. Stanton has a relatively high floor but only a so-so ceiling. Matt Barkely and Jake Coker showed they could make an occasional big play, but Barkely's 8 for 24 completion stat vs. the Raiders suggests he's got work to do before he'll earn BA's trust. Barkley and Coker could both wind up on the practice squad unless BA and SK were to feel more secure bringing up a a #3 WB they can trust to occupy a PS spot.

Running Back (4)
D Johnson, C Johnson and Andre Ellington all looked fine vs. the Raiders. Backups K Williams, Taylor and Penny didn't look too shabby either. I think BA would like to keep a short yardage RB (which means either Taylor and Penny - who are big backs) with KW probably being the odd man out. All three backups are good enough to be possible trade bait. Injuries can quickly turn a deep unit into a very thin one, so don't expect BA to cut a RB any earlier than he has to.

Wide Receiver (6)
Barring injuries, we're well-set with 5 (with Floyd, John Brown and Nelson opposite Fitz and Jaron Brown). (who is said to have had an excellent preseason). Britan Golden (I'm not sure if he played vs. the Raiders) figures to have the inside track for #6. Against the Raiders: Shipley lost a winnable one-on-one battle for the ball on one play but also made a nifty back shoulder catch on the right sideline. Hubert blew one opportunity to flash. Nelson fumbled a return but, his downfield blocking (along with Momah) on the Niklas catch was impressive. As with RB's, there's enough depth on this unit to dangle either a backup or a starter in a trade.

Tight End (4)
Four deep and we'll need it. BA, for strategic reasons, doesn't believe in carrying FB's and relies on his TE's to do the job instead. Best described as a solid, deep group of no-names (several of who could surprise). Niklas had a Pro Bowl day vs. the Raiders. Gresham is the veteran pass catcher but susceptible to nagging injuries. Fells has elite size. Momah impressed the coaches in preseason a year ago, but fell prey to injury. He's back and ready to go.

Offensive Line (9)
Cards are solid at starting LT (Veldheer) and LG (Iupati), but Iupati has been nicked up a bit and depth behind him shoud be a priority. Center is a complex position requiring solid mental chops; so don't expect Boehm to outduel Shipley (at least for now). Mathis is the grizzled vet starting next to Shipley to his left and Humphries to his right. BA says he's happy with Humphries and his development, but - for every good thing said about the Cardinal RT - there's a bit of eye-rolling by members of the local media. There remain nagging rumors that the Cards trade for an experienced RT (either as a starter or backup). Earl Watford (who can play all five positions - including center) has the physicality and should have the experience to start at RT if Humpries should struggle. oaches are said to be high on Antoine McClain (currently listed as backup LG). Wetzel had a better game than Crisp vs. Raiders. So, If the Cards keep 9 linemen, they figure to be Veldheer, Iupati, Shipley, Mathis and Humphries, with Watford, Boehm, McClain and Wetzel in reserve (but don't cut out Crisp just yet).

Defensive Line (8)
Expect to see the depth chart change early and often. There figure to be at least 6 linemen in rotation, with Peters, Gunter and Campbell listed as "starters" and Bryant, X Williams and Ruckers next men up. Nkemdiche, (when he's healthy) figures to be an active component of the Cardinal defense. That leaves Stinson and Mauro to duke it out for the one remaining DL open spot.

Linebacker (8)
Starting unit looks like it will be Chandler Jones and Markus Golden the outside flanking Kevin Minter and $LB Deone Bucannon on the inside. Buzz around Cardinal camp is the improvement and pass rushing talent of Golden. Second unit figures to be Alex Okafor behind Jones and Shaq Riddick behind Golden with Chris Clemons backing up Bucannon and Alani Fua backing up Minter. That would leave Kareem and Gabe Martin odd men out. The two Martins, Clemons, Fua and Riddick figure to be in close contention for two open backup LB spots

(Note - Don't be surprised if S Marqui Christian moves to $LB to battle Clemons. Against the Raiders, Christian played like an extremely talented but very raw rookie. If he can learn to rein in his overaggressiveness, he could turn out to be the surprise of preseason).

Defensive Back (9)
Patrick Peterson is automatic at one CB spot. With Justin Bethel still sidelined, Brandon Williams is turning a lot of heads and is currently the other starter. A rookie (& former RB with only one year as a DB) he was picked on early by Raider passers, but his play improved as the game wore on. The balancing act by Card coaches will to make each miscue a "teaching moment" without squashing the kid's confidence. Cards currently list Swearinger and T Mathieu as starting safeties (ahead of Jefferson and Tyvon Branch). Expect all four to make the roster and see lots of action. Assuming Bethel returns soon, that leaves five corners - - Asa Jackson, Cariel Brooks, Harlan Miller and Elie Bouka and Alan Ball - fighting for two backup CB spots. Assuming no injuries, I'd give Brooks the slight edge for one CB spot now, with the remaining spot up for grabs.

Specialists (3)
Special teams had an embarrassing game vs. the Raiders - Their return guys outgained our return guys (so naturally, their coverage guys outplayed our coverage guys). Nelson carried the ball like a greasy loaf of bread and gave up a key fumble. Looks like Butler and Catanzaro will hang onto their starting jobs, although the Cat missed a chip shot vs, the Raiders. I am not overly impressed by Butler and hope Swanson shows us something more. Looke for BA to open up the competition for KR and PR. Dillon and Canaday continue to dukie it out to be our long snapper.


Early Line on Roster Spots:
Aug. 3, 2016 --ITime flies (when you're having fun). Isuddenly find myself looking back at the Red & White scrimmage that took place last weekend and setting my DVR to record the first preseason game vs. Oakland a few days from now. Where'd the time go? Doesn't matter. What does matter is that I have to play "catch-up" posting info, rumors, innuendo etc. here on the BRS. Let's start out with a down & dirty position-by-position roster analysis. How do we look? Who's "flashing?" Who's "invisible?" What about injuries?" But before we get into that nitty gritty, I can't ignore the news that Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald join Tyrann Mathieu in receiving contract extensions. (Says a lot about how far the Cardinal management has come over the past decade or so).

Here's what I hear is happening - position by position:

Quarterback
The status remains quo, with a healthy Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton firmly in command; with the only issues (at least for now - knock on wood) being Matt Barkely vs. Jake Coker for #3 or (if we only carry 3 QB's on the active roster) which guy (if not both) we put on the PS.

Running Back
It's pretty much D Johnson, C Johnson and Andre Ellington with K Williams, Taylor and Penny battling for a possible 4th RB spot. (Note - Cards have a history of being beaten up physically at RB, so don't expect them to risk a sudden run on depth by cutting too many too early).

Wide Receiver
Floyd, John Brown and Nelson figure to be locks opposite Fitz and Jaron Brown (who is said to have had an excellent preseason). If the Cards keep 6 WR's, Britan Golden figures to have the inside track for #6, though Shipley or Hubert could surprise. Odds favor the Cards keeping a 6th (Golden?) while trying to sneak the other two onto the PS. Or they could trade from strength if the right deal came along.

Tight End
Best described as a solid, deep group of no-names (several of who could surprise). Gresham is the veteran pass catcher. Fells has the size. Nikklas is a second round pick plagued by nagging injuries. Momah remains the sleeper. BA prefers versatile TE's to FB's, so expect the Cards to rotate all four. Christian and/or Valles will probably have to battle their way onto the PS.

Offensive Line
Cards are solid at starting LT (Veldheer) and LG (Iupati), but Iupati has been nicked up a bit and depth behind him shoud be a priority. The versatile Earl Watford should have the physicality...and by now he should have the experience to go along with it. Center is a complex position requiring solid mental chops; so don't expect Boehm to outduel Shipley (for at least awhile). Mathis is the grizzled vet starting next to Shipley on the right side. Semi-major questionmark is at starting RT, where Humphries is receiving mixed reviews from the coaches. (Reading between the coachspeak lines - comments about his "maturity" automatically raise questions about his "want-to."). If Humpries should struggle, we could see Watford stepping up to replace him. Rob Crisp (slotted in behind Humphries at RT) has a year under his belt, and coaches are said to be high on Antoine McClain (currently listed as backup LG). Ifthings remain fairly stable and the Cards keep 8 linemen, they figure to be Veldheer, Iupati, Shipley, Mathis and Humphries, with Watford, Boehm and one other guy (I'm guessing McClain or Crisp) in reserve. But a lot can happen over the next month or so, and maybe we'll be surprised.

Defensive Line
Expect to see the depth chart change early and often. First depth chart has NT Corey Peters flanked by Calais Campbell and Rodney Gunter backed up by Stinson, X Williams and Frostee Rucker respectively. Red Bryant is #3 behind Campbell. Robert Nkemdiche is #4 behind Gunter Rucker and Mauro. Let's assume there will be injuries and I'm also guessing the Cards will keep 6 linemen. Funky looking rotational schemes concocted by Betcher also figure to jumble things up a bit. I"m guessing that one of the six linemen will be rookie standout, Nkemdiche (assuming his high ankle sprain has healed). I also think the Cards value Bryant's veteran leadership. So (barring injury) we figure to have 7 guys battling for 6 roster spots, rotating Campbell, Bryant, Peters Gunther, X WIlliams, Rucker and/or Nkemediche - with Stinson and Mauro good enough to be solid backups but probably odd-men-out.

Linebacker
Looks like it will be Chandler Jones and Markus Golden lining up on the outside and ILB Kevin Minter and $LB Deone Bucannon plugging up the inside. Buzz around Cardinal camp is the improvement and pass rushing talent of Golden. First depth chart shows Alex Okafor backing up Jones and Shaq Riddick backing up Golden on the outside and Chris Clemons backing up Bucannon and Alani Fua backing up Minter on the inside. Situation is fluid, with the Kareem and Gabe Martin and Shaq Riddick battling for roster spots. (Note - because DC Betcher likes to move his defenders around like chess pieces, don't be surprised if one or more of our surplus safeties find their way onto the linebacking roster as $LB's behind Bucannon. (I'd keep my eyes on Marqui Christian who's raising a lot of eyebrows.

Defensive Back
Patrick Peterson is automatic at one CB spot. With Justin Bethel still sidelined, Brandon Williams is making the most of the extra exposure, has turned a lot of heads and is slotted as the other starter. Cards currently list Swearinger and T Mathieu as starting safeties (ahead of Jefferson and Tyvon Branch). Expect all four to make the roster and see lots of action. There is a ton of potential talent at both corner and safety. Asa Jackson, Cariel Brooks, Harlan Miller and Elie Bouka are four corners I want to see...Make that 5: the Cards recently added another tall physical, experienced corner in Alan Ball. Can't keep 'em all (Now you can understand why I think they'll move Marqui Christian to $LB).

Specialists
Most special teams positions don't get sorted out till late in the preseason. For now, we'll assume the early depth chart got it right - Butler and Catanzaro punting and kicking (though I'm hoping Swanson turns out to be good enough to represent an upgrade over Butler); JJ Nelson returning kickoffs and punts; Dillon and Canaday duking it out to be our long snapper.

Whatever the case, what I hear consistently hear from strangers around town who eyeball my Cardinal cap is: "Boy! You guys are loaded this year." Think so. Let's hope so.


"Under the Radar?"...
Aug. 3, 2016 -- A few things happened over the past week or so that may be more important than would normally meet the eye.

Robert Nkemdiche suffered a high ankle sprain and is expected to be out for at least 2 weeks.

Tyrann Mathieu got a new 5-year contract.

Dwight Freeney signed with the Falcs.

The Cards are counting on Nkemdiche - along with Chandler Jones - to add dynamism to the Cardinal front seven. High ankle sprains have a habit of lingering and we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed.

However, this unsettling news was countered by the signing of the Badger. X's and O's aside - Mathieu's signing represents a strong symbolic statement by the Cardinal organization about the value they place on so-called intangibles and installing the the right kind of "team culture."

The were are those who felt that it was highly unlikely that the Cards would re-sgn Freeney and that his absence could be filled by other players already on the roster. Personally, I like my team to be "2 deep" in all role-playing positions (All it takes are two or three "non contact" iinjuries/suspensions to turn a "deep" position into a thin area of "roster hell." I would have liked to have Freeney on-board to fit into rotation/provide pass-rush depth behind Jones, Nkemdiche and Co.

Three seemingly routine moves that may prove to be key franchise factors in the Cardinals' "twighlight zone."


Four New "Puppies"
July 27, 2016 -- Cards placed rehabbing Frostee Rucker, Tyrann Mathieus, Justin Bethel and Zack Waggeman on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. The CW here is that all four players should be ready to go sometime before the start of regular season; but there remains the nagging concern that "maybe they won't recover quickly enough or completely enough. Thus - uneasiness about the status of Honey Badger and Bethel is the probable reason behind the large number of DB's stockpiled on the 90-man roster. Rucker - a defensive team leader a year ago - faces a similar "insurance policy" logjam on the DL. Waggeman is an interesting issue - the coaches are said to really like the UDFA linebacker, but have not yet been able to "see him healthy." Should be an interesting preseason.


Cards Add Veteran CB
July 21, 2016 -- Cards added experience to the CB position by signing 8 year veteran Mike Jenkins to compete with Justin Bethel, Brandon Williams and others for the starting spot opposite Patrick Peterson. According to the official Cardinal website: Jenkins is an eight-year veteran who spent the past two seasons in Tampa Bay. He started five games last year for the Bucs, finishing with 14 tackles and five passes defensed. His 2014 season ended after one game because of a torn pectoral muscle. A first round pick in 2008, hewas a regular starter in stints with the Cowboys and Raiders.

He made the Pro Bowl for Dallas in 2009 and has 10 career interceptions. He visited the Cardinals as a free agent in March of 2014 but signed withthe Buccaneers (The Cardinals signed Antonio Cromartie).


Draft Over - How did we do?
May 5, 2016 -- The picks are in, the UDFA's signed and a few cuts made. So how do the Cards look coming into mini-camps? Position by position:

Quarterbacks:
(4 on post-draft roster). Palmer and Stanton are back and healthy. Barkley and Coker should battle it out to be #3.

Running Back
(6 on post-draft roster). Well-stocked with David Johnson our lead bell cow, backed up by Chris Johnson with Andre Ellington our situational scatback, backed up by either Kerwynn Williams or Jared Baker. That leaves 214 Stephon Taylor to pick up short yardage between the tackles. If there's one weakness in the unit, it's in our short-yardage capability. An improved OL should help.

Wide Receiver
(10 on post-draft roster). Remains one of strongest unit on roster. The vets from last year's deep and talented unit (Fitz, Floyd, the 2 Browns, Nelson and Golden) are all back. 2nd-year backup, Shipley and UDFA's King, Carlisle and Beathard provide backup depth.

Tight End
(6 on post-draft roster). Young, but deep in raw talent. Gresham is the all-purpose vet. Three players (Niklas, Fells and Momah) are all 6-6 or taller. Christian and UDFA Valles round out the unit.

Offensive Line
(17 on post-draft roster). 7 Tackles, 6 Guards, 3 Centers). Improved unit with a few questions to be answered depthwise. Vledheer and Iupati remmain fixtures on the left side. Cards signed veteran RG (Mathis) and moved last year's first round draft choice (Humphries) to RT. They had a serious void at center and drafted Evan Boehm who will compete with AQ Shipley for a starting spot. Keep an eye on Crisp and DeBord competing to be backups at tackle. McClain, Watford and a UDFA (Toner) appear to have the inside track at guard. A depth issue at center remains to be resolved.

Defensive Interior Linemen
(10 on post-draft roster). (Ed Note: We're replacing the traditional "DE" and "DT" designations and labeling all players on the Front 3 "Defensive Interior Linemen." Suddenly a deep unit. Only one major addition to this unit (and a big one at that): Cards drafted Robert Nkendiche in the first down - he's a physical freak who can wreak havoc inside and blow up plays in the backfield. Actually a "second" addition is the return of Corey Peters. This gives the Cards a rotation of Campbell, Nkendiche and Rucker with Bryant, Peters and Gunter in rotation backed up by Mauro, Stinson and X Williams - who, with Olsen, figure to be battling for roster spots.

Edge Rushers
(8 on post-draft roster). Major improvement. Chandler Jones brings elite talent to our pass rush and - especially with Campbell and Nkemdiche should make our pass rush downright scary. Okafor and Golden continue to improve and provide quality depth, and K Martin and Riddick are solid backups with the potential for becoming much more than that. Okpalaugo, Wagenmann and Reilly will have their work cut out for them to "survive on the island."

Inside Linebacker
(5 on post-draft roster). (Ed Note - This gets a bit tricky, since one of the two ILB positions has become more of a SS/ILB hybrid). This unit remains a bit thin, shaky and unproven. Minter should continue to hold down the starting ILB position. There are backup jobs to be had, with Fua, G Martin, Nealy & Louis battling for roster spots.

SS/LB
(3 on post-draft roster). Bucannon literally has "defined" this hybrid position, but there still needs to be additional backup depth. Keep an eye on Marquis Christian and DJ Swearinger. There may be other youngsters who fit this mold, but we'll have to wait till Training Camp to sort this out.

Defensive Back
11 Cornerbacks, 7 Safeties on post-draft roster). Potentially strong unit, but with a few issues to be sorted out. (This is one of those positions where some guy nobody ever heard of can emerge as a quality starter). Right now, our starting corners are Peterson and Bethel, but our coaches would like to see more production from the "non-Peterson" corner position and figure to take a close look at 3rd round draft pick Brandon Williams along with Cariel Brooks and 8 other guys. At the two (traditional) safeties, Tony Jefferson returns but Rashad Johnson doesn't. He's expected to be replaced by Tyvon Branch (who brings more speed and hitting ability to the party). Tyrann Mathieu (What position do you cubby-hole him into?) is expected to be back at full speed.

Specialty Teams
(5 on post-draft roster). We're OK here talent-wise, but neither Butler or Catanzaro are 100% rock solid. Our LS (Leach) retired and the Cards brought in two long snappers (Dillon and Canaday) and a punter (Swanson) to push Butler. Castanzaro has no one to push him. There will be plenty of competition among return men with starting positions not expected to be resolved until we're well into Training Camp.


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