Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Arizona Cardinals 53-man roster projection 1.0

The Cardinals released their first depth chart of the preseason on Monday and we have our first 53-man roster projection of camp.

After a week and a half of fall camp, the Arizona Cardinals still have 90 players on their roster.

The NFL won't require the Cardinals to cut their roster down to 75 players until August 30, and NFL teams have until September 3 to narrow their rosters to 53 players.

With less than a month until the regular season, we're ready to make our first 53-man roster projection for the Cardinals.

Arizona released its first depth chart of the preseason on Monday in advance of the team's preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders Friday night, and though there were some mild surprises, the depth chart largely stuck to our expectations.

After evaluating the Cardinals through training camp thus far and examining rosters head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim have put together in the past, below is our first 53-man roster projection. 

We will release subsequent projections when changes are necessary, whether the changes are due to injuries or if we determine a player has made an outstanding case to make the active roster in preseason competition.

Quarterback

Carson Palmer Drew Stanton Matt Barkley

While some NFL teams take a gamble and only keep two quarterbacks active, Palmer's injury history and Arians' preference to keep three quarterbacks leads us to believe Barkley will make the 53-man roster. Barkley has outplayed Jacob Coker thus far during training camp, but Coker may be a candidate for the practice squad. 

Running Back

David Johnson Chris Johnson Andre Ellington Stepfan Taylor

The final roster spot at running back may come down to Taylor and Kerwynn Williams, but we like Taylor's odds because of the versatility he brings to the offense. He's the biggest back of the group, and keeping Ellington and Williams feels somewhat repetitive. If any of the backs suffer an injury during camp, though, Williams should beat out undrafted rookie Elijhaa Penny for a roster spot.

Wide Receiver

Larry Fitzgerald Michael Floyd John Brown Jaron Brown J.J. Nelson Brittan Golden

The Cardinals' depth chart actually lists undrafted free agent Chris Hubert ahead of Golden, and we've been very high on Hubert throughout training camp. This is a battle that could go down to the wire, especially because Golden's coverage skills on special teams are no longer as valuable now that Brandon Williams is in the fold at corner. Still, with the way Golden has performed during camp, we think the Cardinals will lean on him and opt to add Hubert to the practice squad. 

Tight End

Jermaine Gresham Darren Fells Troy Niklas

We're high on fourth tight end Ifeanyi Momah, but he's not a great fit for the Cardinals' system. Momah is a converted wide receiver playing tight end for a head coach who values run blocking at this position above all else, which is why we're leaning toward Niklas for the final roster spot here. There was some talk last season about potentially keeping four tight ends, and if Momah plays well enough, we could see the Cardinals sacrifice Rob Crisp's roster spot. 

Offensive Line

Jared Veldheer Mike Iupati A.Q. Shipley Evan Mathis D.J. Humphries
Rob Crisp Earl Watford Evan Boehm Antoine McClain

Boehm is the third center on the depth chart, but we can't imagine a scenario where the Cardinals' fourth round draft pick is left off the 53-man roster. There's a good chance Boehm won't be active early in the season, but the Cardinals can't take that type of a risk with a player the team projects as the center of the future. McClain and Watford are the team's primary backups right now, and we like Crisp's odds to beat out John Wetzel for the final roster spot on the offensive line.  

Defensive Line

Rodney Gunter Corey Peters Calais Campbell
Frostee Rucker Ed Stinson Robert Nkemdiche
Josh Mauro

Easily the most difficult group to forecast, the defensive line could shake out in a number of ways. In the past, Arians and Keim have kept just seven defensive linemen, and with a deep group this year, the Cardinals will be hard-pressed to avoid keeping eight. With the physical toll that comes with playing defensive line, we could see a player suffering an injury here and either Red Bryant or Xavier Williams sticking out the remainder of camp and earning a roster spot. 

Inside Linebacker

Kevin Minter Deone Bucannon
Alani Fua Gabe Martin

The Cardinals have kept five inside linebackers in the past, but with Donald Butler failing to live up to expectations so far during camp and veteran Chris Clemons not providing much special teams benefit, we think Arizona will keep more players on the back end of the defense and sacrifice a spot at inside linebacker. Martin is a third teamer on the depth chart, but has played with multiple first team special teams units in camp which is an indication the Cardinals expect him to make the roster.

Outside Linebacker

Chandler Jones Markus Golden
Alex Okafor Kareem Martin
Shaq Riddick

Riddick is a player battling for a roster spot right now, and it's not just a competition with fellow outside linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo. Because of Mauro's versatility and ability to play outside linebacker, the team may elect to keep Bryant or Williams if the entire defensive line remains healthy and try to sign Riddick to the practice squad. We gave Riddick the benefit of the doubt here because he's a 2015 draft pick, and it still feels early for the Cardinals to give up on him.

Cornerback

Patrick Peterson Brandon Williams
Cariel Brooks Justin Bethel

It took a lot for us to put Brooks' name ahead of Alan Ball's, and we think Ball could end up passing Brooks by the end of camp if he stays healthy and performs as well as he did in the Cardinals' red and white practice on Saturday. Mike Jenkins is also a contender here, and to a lesser degree, so is Asa Jackson, but a lot depends on how the team's reps shake out once Bethel returns from injury. 

Safety

Tyrann Mathieu D.J. Swearinger
Tony Jefferson Tyvon Branch
Marqui Christian

At the outset of camp, we thought Swearinger would have a difficult time making the roster because of the crowded ranks at safety. In the initial depth chart release, Swearinger is paired on the first team defense with Mathieu, and his play has merited that status. Swearinger has enjoyed an excellent camp so far, and so has Christian. Branch isn't listed with the first team defense, but he is the first nickel corner and we expect him to see significant playing time. 

Specialists

K. Chandler Catanzaro P. Drew Butler LS: Daniel Dillon

Butler won't be beat out by challenger Garrett Swanson unless Swason's punts dramatically improve, and the battle between Dillon and fellow long snapper Kameron Canaday is too close to call right now. Dillon's name is the placeholder we chose. 

Last Five In

1. Marqui Christian

2. Cariel Brooks

3. Brittan Golden

4. Rob Crisp

5. Shaq Riddick

First Five Out

1. Red Bryant

2. Chris Hubert

3. Xavier Williams

4. Chris Clemons

5. Ifeanyi Momah

Next Five Out

6. Alan Ball

7. Tristan Okpalaugo

8. Kerwynn Williams

9. Asa Jackson

10. John Wetzel


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