The Arizona Cardinals face the Tennessee Titans in their final preseason game. Here are a couple of things to watch for and keep in mind.
The Arizona Cardinals take on the Tennessee Titans in their final preseason game this evening in Nashville. It feels great to be this close to Week One of the regular season, but for the Cardinals, this final preseason game is going to be one last shot for certain players who are trying to fight their way into regular rotation with the team to make that impression before the regular season begins. This includes intriguing players like Greg Dortch and Andy Isabella.
Greg Dortch / Victor Bolden Jr. / Jonathan Ward
Dortch figures to make the roster because of his abilities in the kick return game, if not on the back of his strengths as a receiver. But with the abilities in the kick return game showcased by Jonathan Ward in the second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, suddenly the Cardinals find themselves in a position of having multiple capable kick returners on their special teams. That isn’t a bad thing, but does it open the possibility for Victor Bolden Jr. to make roster?
Bolden, who also has kick return abilities, figures to be a long shot at this point to make the Cardinals’ Week One roster. But what about Jonathan Ward? If you saw the Ravens game, you saw his kick returns. Is it possible he provides the same spark as a punt returner? Players who excel as kick returners or punt returners don’t necessarily translate seamlessly to the other role. It may be worth keeping him around for that reason.
Crowded Running Back Room
Otherwise, Ward is in a crowded running back depth chart that may not allot him a ton of playing time in the regular season. Eno Benjamin, Darrel Williams, and Keaontay Ingram figure to provide plenty of help to the ascendant James Conner in the running game. Is it possible as some have suggested that the Cardinals could cut Williams in this crowded backfield, after he was brought in to fill the void left by Chase Edmonds, to ensure a place for Ward?
Keeping an eye on the rushing performances tonight could prove to be important in deciding these final roster spots in the last days before the regular season. Williams, who started in seven games for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, had 558 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Pretty solid production. That tells you how high the Cardinals coaching staff just might be on Jonathan Ward.
Addressing Secondary Depth
And just what should the Cardinals do about their glaring weaknesses in the depth of their secondary? It isn’t too late for the team to bring in another defensive back and get them acclimated with the defensive schemes before the start of the regular season? There are a couple of names left in free agency that may be worthwhile options for the team. The starters in the defensive backfield have seen little to no action in preseason, but the lack of depth is definitely a concern.
One of the names the Cardinals might consider looking ahead is A.J. Bouye. The veteran cornerback hasn’t put up the same level of production that he did in his Pro Bowl season of 2017, but he’s arguably the most notable name left on the free agent market. In 2021, he started ten games with the Carolina Panthers, during which he time he gave up no touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks.
Bouye’s status as a veteran may also prove beneficial to some of the younger players on the Cardinals roster who have been struggling. Budda Baker is always going to be the leader of the defensive backs as long as he’s in cardinal red, but even he can’t do everything back there. Bringing in Bouye, or possibly someone like Kevin King, who is coming off some difficult seasons in Green Bay, but who was once the 33rd selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.