The Arizona Cardinals released the team's first depth chart of the season Monday ahead of the Cardinals' preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders Friday evening.
While there were a few mild surprises, the release confirmed much of our previous analysis and helped provide additional perspective regarding the competition along the offensive line.
At this point in camp, we've seen enough practices to determine which players are in jeopardy of missing the final cut when the team narrows its roster down to 53 players prior to the season opener against New England.
Some of the most critical camp battles for roster spots are taking place along the offensive line, and with the Cardinals expected to keep just nine offensive linemen total, we ranked the players in this position group with the best odds of making the team on a 4-3-2-1 scale.
Our evaluation key
4: A near-lock for the final roster. A player who should start for the Cardinals and see considerable playing time, barring an injury.
3: Above average odds to make the final roster. A player who should factor into the regular rotation, and would only be cut if the player experienced a significant drop off in performance or is dropped for salary considerations.
2: Below average odds to make the final roster. A player who is right on the brink, and should remain on the team when NFL franchises are forced to cut their rosters from 90 to 75 players. This player will struggle to make the 53-man roster, and may only make the roster in the event of an injury or because he fits a particular need.
1: Highly unlikely to make the final roster. A player who may not make the cut when the team reduces its roster size to 75 players, and a player who is at best considered a practice squad candidate.
Mike Iupati: 4-Iupati is our highest-rated offensive lineman and the starting left guard for the Cardinals. A lineman who could make the Pro Bowl in any given year, Iupati has demonstrated his toughness and physicality throughout camp.
Jared Veldheer: 4-Manning the left side of the offensive line with Iupati, Veldheer is considered an underrated left tackle by many NFL experts. We think Veldheer is still a cut below the league's elite at the position because he lacks top-level quickness and agility, but he's still one of the Cardinals' best linemen.
D.J. Humphries: 4-Because left guard Evan Mathis has taken a number of veterans' days off and has missed time during camp with sore legs, we consider Humphries the Cardinals' third most impressive lineman right now. Mathis could outshine Humphries in the regular season, but Humphries has strung together strong practices of late and we think he's ready to handle the rigors of starting at right tackle in the NFL. Humphries has come a long way from last season, and though he will have growing pains this year, he will also surprise some opponents with his motor.
Evan Mathis: 4-Mathis is the final Cardinals' offensive lineman receiving a '4' in our evaluation as the 34-year-old is back for one more run at a Super Bowl. Mathis is an outstanding run blocker, and a key piece for the Cardinals to bridge the gap as they move on from Jonathan Cooper.
A.Q. Shipley: 3-Shipley has taken nearly every rep with the first team offense at center this camp, and it appears as though Bruce Arians wants him to earn the starting job. However, Shipley has struggled to gain ground in run blocking at times and could be passed by a player like Earl Watford or Evan Boehm as the season moves along.
Earl Watford: 3-Watford is the Cardinals' sixth offensive lineman at this point in camp, and Arians has expressed a desire to see him test Shipley at center. We think Watford has more upside than Shipley at that spot, and we know Watford can play guard based on what we've seen in previous seasons and during camp.
Antoine McClain: 2.5-McClain is close to earning a '3' in our eyes and his play has probably merited it, but the Cardinals' coaching staff hasn't outwardly praised McClain in a way for us to believe his roster spot is secure. We like McClain as the seventh lineman the Cardinals should carry.
Evan Boehm: 2.5-Boehm will make the Cardinals' roster, but he hasn't quite put things together yet in a way that will merit serious consideration for a starting job. Boehm has a higher upside than Shipley, but as a rookie, it's difficult to step in and make all the right calls and checks at center while still maintaining a strong foundation in run and pass blocking. If Shipley isn't getting the job done by week eight or week 10, it wouldn't surprise us if the Cardinals slotted Boehm into the center spot to give him experience in light of a potential playoff run.
Robert Crisp: 2-With eight players holding at least average odds to make the roster, Crisp is the first of three players with below average odds to make the roster fighting for the final roster spot on the offensive line. So far during camp, neither Crisp nor fellow tackle John Wetzel has impressed, but the Cardinals' second team outside linebackers and defensive ends have made it difficult for the team's second team offensive tackles to compete. We thought Arizona might sign a veteran depth option, but it appears as though the Cardinals are content with the players they have competing.
John Wetzel: 2-Wetzel has struggled mightily in the reps we've followed during camp, but at 6-foot-7 and 328 pounds, he has a massive frame to work with at the tackle spot. With McClain, Watford and Boehm all projecting as interior offensive linemen, the Cardinals need Crisp or Wetzel to emerge as a dependable option as a backup tackle.
Taylor Boggs: 2-Boggs is the most experienced of the three players we evaluate with a '2' rating as he's played in seven NFL games over three seasons, but he's an interior offensive lineman who probably lacks the size to play tackle in a pinch. With McClain and Boehm already likely ahead of Boggs (even though the depth chart lists Boggs ahead of Boehm), the road to the roster is a tough one for the Humboldt State product.
Cole Toner: 1.5-Toner's grade of 1.5 comes before the Harvard product and fifth round draft pick's first NFL preseason game, and we're most willing to consider revising our grade of Toner after we watch him play during the Cardinals' first two preseason contests. Ultimately, we could see Toner rating as high as 2.5 and as low as 1, but right now, we can't give Toner the nod ahead of a player like Wetzel or Crisp because he hasn't proved much on the practice field. From time to time, Toner will demonstrate strong fundamentals, especially in zone blocking at the right guard spot, but after a week and a half of watching him in camp, Toner looks like he could be headed toward the practice squad.
Clay DeBord: 1-Outside of Toner and Boehm, DeBord has probably looked the best of the remaining third team offensive linemen. He's done a decent job of walling off Shaquille Riddick's speed rushes on the outside, and fared better than his counterpart at right tackle Givens Price who has struggled against Tristan Okpalaugo. Still, DeBord's best hope of sticking with the Cardinals is on the practice squad.
Jake Bernstein: 1-A center in college at Vanderbilt, Bernstein has failed to grab our attention when we've evaluated the third team offensive and defensive lines. Much of our focus has been on the tackle spots against the Cardinals' outside linebackers, but we've seen more from Boehm and Toner than we have from Bernstein thus far.
Givens Price: 1-Price is not having a good camp, but because he's relatively new to playing offensive tackle (He played defense at Nebraska), the Cardinals may take a flier on him and keep him on the practice squad. The odds are in the Cardinals' favor another team won't pick up Price, so the franchise could see how he evolves over the course of a year.