John Skelton may have unofficially locked up the starting quarterback position, but there is plenty of intrigue left as the Cardinals prepare for their final two preseason games. Position battles at receiver and defensive back are ongoing and the Cards have some tough decisions to make. Here is our updated take on how the roster will shake down.
Stock rising: S Justin Bethel, RB William Powell, WR LaRon Byrd.
Notable numbers: The Cards will keep four tight ends because they employ several multiple tight end packages. For that reason, the team generally only keeps one fullback to offset the roster oddity.
QB -- In: (3) Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley. Out: Rich Bartel. Analysis: Coach Ken Whisenhunt has said he won’t decide on a starting QB until after the final preseason game, but the battle for the No. 3 spot may have already been won with rookie Ryan Lindley (San Diego State) showing promise thus far in the preseason. The Cards took a flier in the sixth round on Lindley because of his size (6-feet-4, 230 pounds) and arm. It’s possible they could keep him on the practice squad (if he clears waivers) but Whisenhunt isn’t fond of that move, reasoning that there aren’t enough practice reps for three quarterbacks, let alone four. Besides, veterans such as Bartel are fairly easy to find if the need arises.
RB -- In: (6) Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell, Javarris James, Anthony Sherman (FB). Out: Alfonso Smith, Reagan Maui’a, Jared Crank, Thomas Clayton. Analysis: With Wells’ injury history and both he and Williams coming off knee surgeries, the Cards will keep five running backs as insurance. James has been hampered by an abductor strain in camp but impressed in mini-camp and OTAs. Powell has played well in the preseason and may have turned the tables on Smith, who we had in the mix in our last look.
WR -- In: (6) Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, DeMarco Sampson, LaRon Byrd. Out: Jaymar Johnson, Stephen Williams, Isaiah Williams, Tre Gray, Gino Crump. Analysis: Floyd will be brought along slowly, but his development will obviously add a major piece to the passing game and relieve some pressure on Fitzgerald. It will also allow Roberts and Doucet to assume lesser roles more suited to their abilities. The Cards drafted Sampson last season and he’s had a decent camp. Byrd has also played well. That likely spells doom for Johnson, despite his deep speed and Stephen Williams, who doesn’t play special teams.
TE -- In: (4) Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler, Jim Dray. Out: Steve Skelton, Martell Webb. Analysis: King has resumed practice and should be ready for the opener. The Cards like what Heap and Housler can provide in the passing game and Heap has proved a more capable blocker than the Cards expected. Dray is a solid blocker, but hasn’t developed the rest of his skills. Still, he’ll stick around because of the multiple tight end packages the Cards use.
OL -- In (8): Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein, Adam Snyder, Jeremy Bridges, Bobby Massie, D’Anthony Batiste, Senio Kelemete, D.J. Young. Out: Nate Potter, Russ Hochstein, Rich Ohrnberger, Chris Stewart, Scott Wedige. Veteran depth was a major concern along the line before Levi Brown went down with a potentially season-ending triceps injury. Now it’s a five-alarm fire. Kelemete and Massie are both rookies and Batiste is inexperienced. Young and Potter are candidates for the practice squad if the Cards choose to shop the free agent market for a better replacement for Brown.
DL -- In (6): Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams, Calais Campbell, Nick Eason, David Carter, Vonnie Holliday. Out: Zack Nash, Ricky Lumpkin, Everrette Thompson, Landon Cohen, Ronald Talley. Analysis: The starters and the reserves remain the same as last season. This is the strength of the Cardinals defense.
LB -- In (8): O’Brien Schofield, Daryl Washington, Paris Lenon, Sam Acho, Reggie Walker, Stewart Bradley, Clark Haggans, Quentin Groves. Out: Brandon Williams, Quan Sturdivant, Antonio Coleman, Colin Parker, Marcus McGraw, Paul Vassallo. Analysis: The Cards have depth at every one of their linebacker positions now and Bradley can play both inside and outside. Even with the need for linebackers on special teams, that fact could land Sturdivant, a 2011 draft pick, on the practice squad for a second straight year. The heady Parker could join him there, but is still a longshot to make this team.
DB – In (9): Patrick Peterson, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, William Gay, Greg Toler, Jamell Fleming, Michael Adams, Rashad Johnson, Justin Bethel. Out: A.J. Jefferson, James Sanders, Marshay Green, Blake Gideon, Eddie Elder, Larry Parker, James Nixon, Crezdon Butler. Analysis: The Cards have a glut of cornerbacks competing for the starting spot opposite Peterson. DC Ray Horton wants a large group, given the rampant injuries that occur at this position, but there are still NFL-capable personnel here who will be cut like Jefferson. Bethel could be a candidate for the practice squad, but with his speed and the plays he’s already made on special teams, it’s questionable whether he’d ever clear waivers to make it there.
Special teams -- In (3): Dave Zastudil, Jay Feely, Mike Leach. Out: Ricky Schmitt. Analysis: The Cards are set here with their punter (Zastudil), kicker (Feely) and long snapper (Leach) all returning, along with PR Patrick Peterson and KR LaRod Stephens-Howling.
For more news and analysis from Cardinals blogger Craig Morgan, follow @CBSSportsNFLARI on Twitter.