Cardinals Focusing on Youth with 16-Player Practice Squad

Six veterans are eligible this year, but young players will likely populate many spots on the Arizona Cardinals 16-man practice squad.
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The days are dwindling down to a precious few.

There aren’t many practices remaining before rosters are reduced to 53 and there will be tough choices made, especially at the bottom of the roster.

Not only for the Cardinals, but all around the league, it will be intriguing to see how many undrafted rookie free agents earn a spot. Each year, there are about 50 or so around the league who make the 53, but obviously this is a very different year.

When head coach Kliff Kingsbury was asked Wednesday about those that caught his eye, he wouldn’t be specific, but said, “Guys have definitely caught our eye. What's tough is you're just now getting to know them. You didn't get to learn their work habits and how they retain information throughout an offseason. I mean, this is fast and furious. They're not getting as many reps.

“But there's been guys that have stepped up and had flashes here and there and so it's been good to see but you feel for them because normally they get to interview for 31 other teams while they're interviewing for you during those preseason games. And that hasn't been the case, but there's definitely guys that are fighting for positions and it'll come down to the wire for them.”

One reality, though, is that there will likely be spots for many on this year’s expanded practice squads. Originally set to increase from 10 to 12 in the new collective bargaining agreement, the number was increased to 16 as a result of the pandemic. Also different this year is that six can be veterans.

Thanks to the shortened days of work on the field in training camp, it’s likely that teams will keep even more of their own players than usual and there might not be as much churn on the practice squad.

Kingsbury said Wednesday, “This is only my second year doing this but without preseason games, you feel like you got what you got. I think you want those guys that have been in your system and we'll be able to operate with the uncertainty of the season and what's going on and all the protocols. Even bringing guys in for tryouts. I think you feel like this group that's learned our stuff; you want to keep as many guys intact as possible.

“So the evaluation process has been going on in-house and you don't have the preseason games to watch and scout or even camp film from other people to watch and scout so it's been unique. And it's definitely put the focus back on who we have here in the building.”