NFL Arizona Cardinals

NFL: Predicting the Arizona Cardinals 53-Man Roster for 2013

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NFL 2013: Predicting the 53-Man Roster for the Arizona Cardinals

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals had a dismal 2012 season, going 5-11 and finishing last in the NFC West. Four different quarterbacks started games for the team last season, due in part to a porous offensive line that allowed a league-high 58 sacks, so some changes were surely coming this offseason.

Bruce Arians has replaced Ken Whisenhunt as head coach, and Steve Keim has taken over as general manager. Carson Palmer was acquired in a trade from the Oakland Raiders in an attempt to put an end to the quarterback carousel, and he brings some credibility to the franchise. Some other notable players that were added in free agency include running back Rashard Mendenhall, safety Yeremiah Bell and linebacker Jasper Brinkley

April’s draft brought a nice influx of young talent, with guard Jonathan Cooper, linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Alex Okafor all possibly filling significant roles right out of the gate.

The Cardinals were 21st in the NFL in total defense in 2012 (337.8 yards per game) and 28th against the run (136.9 yards per game), so a changing of the guard is coming on that side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton went to the Cleveland Browns, and five of their top eight tacklers from last season (Paris Lenon, Kerry Rhodes, Adrian Wilson, William Gay and Quentin Groves) will not be back.

As the Cardinals look to turn around their fortunes in what is fast becoming one of the league’s most competitive divisions, here’s how I see their 53-man roster looking for the 2013 season.

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Quarterbacks (3)

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Palmer

Drew Stanton

Ryan Lindley

Kevin Kolb and John Skelton are gone, with Palmer and Stanton taking their spots on the depth chart. Palmer brings name recognition under center Arizona has not had since Kurt Warner retired, but just how much he has left is a big question.

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Running Backs (5)

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Rashard Mendenhall

Ryan Williams

Stepfan Taylor

Andre Ellington

William Powell

Mendenhall is slated to replace Chris “Beanie” Wells as Arizona’s starting running back, and being over a year removed from a torn ACL should only benefit him. Williams has yet to avoid injuries thus far in his career, and rookies Taylor and Ellington could bump him down the depth chart.

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Wide Receivers (6) and Tight Ends (3)

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Wide Receivers:

Larry Fitzgerald

Michael Floyd

Andre Roberts

Ryan Swope

LaRon Byrd

Jarett Dillard

Tight Ends:

Rob Housler

Jeff King

D.C. Jefferson

Fitzgerald is coming off one of his worst seasons in 2012 (71 receptions for 798 yards and four touchdowns), so the addition of Palmer is good news. The Cardinals will surely be looking for Floyd to take a significant step in his second season.

Housler looks primed for a breakout season in 2013, and he should get every chance to start now that the oft-injured Todd Heap is gone.

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Offensive Lineman (9)

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Jonathan Cooper (OG)

Levi Brown (OT)

Lyle Sendlein (C)

Bobby Massie (OT)

Daryn College (OG)

Nate Potter (OT)

Earl Watford (OG)

Mike Gibson (OG/C)

Paul Fainaka (OT)

The Cardinals finally used a high draft pick to add talent to this unit, and Cooper will step right in and start at right guard. Fellow rookie Watford could also make a case for a significant role with a strong preseason.

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Defensive Lineman (7)

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Calais Campbell (DE)

Darnell Dockett (DE/DT)

Alex Okafor (DE)

Dan Williams (DT)

Matt Shaughnessy (DE)

Frostee Rucker (DE)

David Carter (DT)

Dockett is one veteran that remains on the Cardinals’ defense, and he and Campbell are the stars here. Okafor is a very intriguing player, and he may also see time at outside linebacker.

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Linebackers (8)

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Daryl Washington (ILB)

Jasper Brinkley (ILB)

Kevin Minter (ILB)

Karlos Dansby (ILB)

Sam Acho (OLB)

Lorenzo Alexander (OLB)

O'Brien Schofield (OLB)

Reggie Walker (ILB)

Washington led the team in sacks (nine) and tackles (108) in 2012, but he has already been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and further discipline is possible after he was arrested early this month on an assault charge. The reunion with Dansby should help the Cardinals make up for a longer absence from Washington, and Minter could also see significant snaps right away.

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Defensive Backs (9)

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Patrick Peterson (CB)

Yeremiah Bell (S)

Rashad Johnson (S)

Antoine Cason (CB)

Tyrann Mathieu (CB/S)

Jerraud Powers (CB)

Jonathon Amaya (S)

Jamell Fleming (CB)

Curtis Taylor (S)

The star of this group is clearly Peterson, and after that there are a lot of question marks or just plain non-descript talent. Bell should capably replace Wilson and Rhodes as a veteran presence, and Mathieu has a bright future if he can avoid the issues that brought a premature end to his college career.

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Specialists (3)

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Placekicker: Jay Feely

Punter: Dave Zastudil

Long Snapper: Mike Leach

Zastudil led the league in punts (112) and total punting yardage last season (5,209), which is not surprising considering the ineptitude of the Cardinals’ offense. Feely is fairly underappreciated, but could be in for a big season with more points almost sure to be scored with Palmer under center.