Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Jess Root

53-man Cardinals roster projections after 2 preseason games

The Arizona Cardinals have played two preseason games and are less than a week away from having to cut their roster down to 53 players. They have a number of difficult decisions to make at several positions and injuries will impact things.

If they have a player who they want to place on injured reserve but have him eligible to return in as early as after missing four games, they will have to make the initial 53-man roster. Eight players can be designated for return this year.

Buy Cardinals Tickets

Below are my latest 53-man roster predictions for the Cardinals, with explanations at each position.

Listen to the latest from Cards Wire’s Jess Root on his podcast, Rise Up, See Red. Subscribe on Apple podcasts or Spotify.

Latest show:

Previous shows:


QB: 3

RB: 4

WR: 5

TE: 3

OL: 5 Jones, Harlow, Ford, hayes, smith

DL: Watt, Allen, Lawrence, Fotu, Dogbe, Ledbetter

OLB: Golden, Kennard, Gardeck, Sanders, Thomas, Dimukeje

ILB: Collins, Simmons, Vigil, Vallejo, Turner

CB: Murphy, Hamitlon, Wilson, Matthew

S: Budda, JT, Wiggins, Washington


Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury made it fairly clear last week that they will likely keep three quarterbacks on the active roster. With as much playing time and practice reps as McSorley has gotten, they will not want to have that wasted and lose him to waivers or to another team’s practice squad, so it seems highly unlikely they will try to get him to clear waivers.

Running back

James Conner, Darrel Williams, Eno Benjamin, Keaontay Ingram

This is one of the harder decisions to make. Because of injuries at other positions, I think the Cardinals will have to carry at least initially before placing them on injured reserve, they can’t viably keep more than four backs.

Williams’ contract is almost completely guaranteed, although he perhaps is a player who could be traded. Benjamin has been the star of the offseason and Ingram is a promising rookie with a complete skillset.

Ward is a core special teams player, but he is the odd man out to try and keep Ingram on the roster. Ward likely can make it to the practice squad and be elevated to play each week.

Wide receiver

Marquise Brown, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, Antoine Wesley, Greg Dortch (DeAndre Hopkins will not count against final 53)

Hopkins will be immediately moved to the suspended list and will not have to be carried on the 53-man roster. However, it doesn’t look like they can keep six receivers. They might not need to because of the tight ends on the roster.

The key here is Wesley’s availability. He is expected to be ready for the start of the season so they will keep him on the 53-man roster, even if he is going to be placed on injured reserve for the short-term.

If he does need to go on injured reserve for a few weeks, it does open the door for Andy Isabella. However, I don’t expect it, as they also have younger receivers they can keep as well or elevate from the practice squad.

Tight end

Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams, Trey McBride

This is perhaps the easiest room to project. Even if Williams isn’t ready to play at the start of the season, they won’t keep a fourth tight end, they will likely go with practice squad elevations.

Offensive line

 (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, Rodney Hudson, Will Hernandez, Kelvin Beachum, Josh Jones, Cody Ford, Sean Harlow, Lecitus Smith, Marquis Hayes

Ten linemen seems to be the way to go for the Cardinals, which will short other positions. With some uncertainty with Justin Pugh, which appears to have triggered the trade for Ford, they will need to carry 10. They don’t want Hayes or Smith to be exposed to waivers.

The surprise cut is Justin Murray and possibly less so is Josh Miles, although Miles could have some trade value as a young, athletic tackle.

Defensive line

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. Watt, Zach Allen, Rashard Lawrence, Leki Fotu, Michael Dogbe, Jonathan Ledbetter

All but Ledbetter seem to be roster locks. The battle for the final spot is between Ledbetter, undrafted rookie Manny Jones and veterans Antwaun Woods and Christian Ringo. Woods and Ringo could be the last guy because of their experience.

Outside linebacker

Markus Golden, Devon Kennard, Dennis Gardeck, Cameron Thomas, Myjai Sanders, Victor Dimukeje

This is a position where five makes more sense to keep but they won’t want to let any of these guys go. Seventh-round pick Jesse Luketa is a guy who could make the team, especially for special teams work, but numbers are the issue.

The first five guys are locks, so it comes down to Dimukeje, who has grown in a year in the NFL and does play special teams, or Luketa, who looks like he will be a beast on special teams but doesn’t have pass rushing skills yet, as he only played one year in college as an edge defender.

Luketa probably makes it to the practice squad and can be elevated for special teams play from time to time.

Inside linebacker

 (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

Isaiah Simmons, Nick Vigil, Zaven Collins, Tanner Vallejo, Zeke Turner

I wasn’t sure about Vallejo’s status this offseason until he got the same treatment for preseason playing time as Simmons and Vigil. These five players are all locks. Keeping six makes sense as well, but with six outside linebackers, 10 offensive linemen and three quarterbacks, there isn’t room for another guy like Joe Walker or Ben Niemann.


 Joe Rondone-Arizona Republic

Byron Murphy, Antonio Hamilton, Marco Wilson, Christian Matthew

Three are locks and it came down to Matthew, Jace Whittaker or Josh Jackson. Whittaker has yet to draw interest from other teams outside of Arizona in over two years. He can be brought back to the practice squad. Matthew shows some upside and has physical traits no one else in the room has. That is why he gets the nod over Jackson, who has underachieved so far in his NFL career.


Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, Charles Washington, James Wiggins

Deionte Thompson gets cut here because they have another player in Isaiah Simmons who would be the team’s third safety if there were an injury.

Washington and Wiggins have the superior play on special teams and Thompson has not done anything in three seasons to show he is going to be any better than he has.

Washington’s chest injury in the game against the Ravens could mean that Thompson sneaks onto the roster if the injury is serious enough to land him on injured reserve.


Michael Chow-Arizona Republic

Andy Lee, Matt Prater, Aaron Brewer

These are the only specialists now on the roster. we knew entering this offseason it would be these three. Hopefully they continue to be capable and that all three stay healthy.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.