Five Players Face Tough Battle to Make Roster – Sports Illustrated

Despite many outsiders not giving the Arizona Cardinals rave reviews throughout the offseason, the Cardinals have a good amount of "locks" to make the 53-man roster. All Cardinals will provide a list of players in the future who are destined to obtain a roster spot — barring an injury or surprise trade. 
The Cardinals lost Pro Bowl edge rusher Chandler Jones, wide receiver Christian Kirk and running back Chase Edmonds during free agency. Other than those three departures, the Cardinals are running back mostly the same squad that went to the playoffs and finished 11-6 in 2021. 
Rookies report to training camp on July 21 and the veterans make way on July 26. They will get to compete during training camp and the preseason to win a spot on the final roster. 
These players are currently on the outside of the bubble looking in and will face a tough task in order to make the final 53-man roster. 
Stephen Anderson
It was surprising to see the Cardinals draft tight end Trey McBride after signing extensions to Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams in the offseason. Yet, Williams signed only a one-year deal with no guaranteed money and is rehabbing a 2021 season-ending ankle injury. 
Enter Anderson, who is the likely the No. 4 tight end on the roster. Anderson started three games with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2021 and had 16 receptions for 165 yards and one touchdown.
The 29-year-old is a big-body target listed at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. If Williams or another tight end were to go down with an injury, Anderson would compete with veteran Deon Yelder. 
Trace McSorley
The Cardinals entered the 2021 season with three quarterbacks on the final roster — Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy and Chris Streveler. McSorley has since replaced Streveler, but it's possible the Cardinals would rather keep a valuable depth piece than a third-string QB.
In this case, McSorley is almost destined to land on the practice squad. McCoy started three games in 2021 and has more years of experience than the 26-year-old McSorley, who hasn't played a game since 2020. 
McSorley was drafted in the sixth-round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2019. He played two games in 2020 and does have history with new addition wide receiver Marquise Brown. The two connected for a 70-yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. 
Jace Whittaker
Barring a signing, there will be a battle for the third cornerback on the roster after Byron Murphy Jr. and Marco Wilson. Veteran corners Antonio Hamilton and Breon Borders are likely next in line with free-agent addition Josh Jackson and seventh-round rookie Christian Matthew to follow.
Whittaker could have his work cut out for him. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020, he's played mostly special teams in his two seasons with the Cardinals. He's bounced back and forth from the roster to the practice squad and has only 78 defensive snaps on his NFL resume.
It's also possible the Cardinals reunite with veteran corner Robert Alford. The 27-year-old Whittaker needs an impactful training camp and preseason in order to make the team.
Jontre Kirklin
A two-way player can be beneficial for any football team. The versatile undrafted rookie Jontre Kirklin can fit that mold.
The 23-year-old played 57 games over five seasons with the LSU Tigers as a wide receiver, quarterback, defensive back and even helped on special teams as a punt returner. He had a career-high 13 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns in 2020. Last season, Kirklin started one game as a quarterback and completed seven of 11 passes. 
Kirklin will likely compete with Greg Dortch, veteran Christian Blake and Andre Baccellia for the No. 5 receiver role during the summer. That's due to DeAndre Hopkins being suspended for the first six games of the season. It's likely that Marquise Brown, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore and Antoine Wesley are the first four roster receivers. 
The depth of the wide receiver room will be closely monitored for the start of the season, especially with Andy Isabella's Cardinals' future hanging in the balance.
Jonathan Ward
Signing with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2020, Ward has been a depth and special-teams piece. 
The Cardinals have a crowded running back room with James Conner, Darrel Williams, Eno Benjamin and rookie Keaontay Ingram — with Ward included. 
Ward has the NFL experience over Benjamin and Ingram. Ward also has the ability to play special teams over the less-experienced rookie Ingram. 
Yet, Benjamin has more yards than Ward in the same two-year span. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury complimented Benjamin's talents in June. Also, Ingram totaled over 1,000 scrimmage yards in his last season at USC and was selected in the draft for a reason.
There's a chance that Ward ends up on the practice squad. Also watch out for Ronnie Rivers, who's an undrafted running back and will also compete for a spot.

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
Articles: 4988

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