The final week of the preseason continues with the Arizona Cardinals at the Denver Broncos. This is the last chance for many players to make their case to be on the opening season roster, whether it be as a role player, as part of a position rotation, or as a special teams player. Our team of PFF analysts have all the most important position battles and players to watch for each team:
Coverage by: Mark Chichester
Position Battle: Brittan Golden, Jeremy Ross, WR
- With Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson and Chad Williams all set to make the roster, Brittan Golden has one more game to try and secure the sixth receiver spot. Golden has played 53 snaps offensive snaps this preseason, has caught all seven of his catchable targets, leads Cardinals receivers (with at least 10 passing patterns) with 3.59 yards per route run, and when throwing to Golden, Cardinals quarterbacks have posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
- Jeremy Ross has played 107 offensive snaps this preseason, the most of all Cardinals wide receivers. He ranks fifth among his teammates with 1.64 yards per route run, and his wide receiver rating of 121.6 ranks second. Despite falling behind Golden in terms of offensive production, Ross has contributed as a returner on special teams, averaging 18.2 yards per kick-off return, which ranks 26th of 53 qualifying return men.
Players to watch:
- Ironhead Gallon, S – With four cornerback spots and four safety spots locked up, the rookie strong safety is likely playing for the last defensive back spot on the roster. Through four games, he has been solid against the run, and leads all Cardinals safeties with six run stops on 55 run defense snaps. However, his performance in coverage needs to improve in the last game, after allowing three touchdowns on throws into his primary coverage.
- Jarvis Jones, OLB – The free agent acquisition is yet to see the field in a Cardinals uniform after a back injury kept him out of most of training camp. Bruce Arians recently said that he wouldn’t be able to go into the regular season with an injured Jones on the active roster, so unless he can get healthy and show something in the final game, he could be facing release. Jones will need to show a marked improvement from his 2016 form, where managed just 15 pressures on 214 pass-rush snaps, if he is to beat Cap Capi (92.0 pass-rush grade this preseason) to the fourth outside linebacker spot.
- Will Holden, OG – Holden earned a PFF overall grade of 81.4 while playing at guard in the Hall of Fame Game, however, he has played at tackle in the last three games, and struggled. In the last three games, Holden has allowed four total pressures on 61 pass blocking snaps, which ranks 60th of 127 offensive tackles with at least 24 snaps. With veteran tackle John Wetzel seemingly a lock, Holden (71.6 overall grade) will likely be competing against the Ulrick John (76.9 overall grade) for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Coverage by: Daniel Cohen
Position Battle: Shelby Harris/Adam Gotsis DE
- Due to Harris’ (originally listed as third string) play in the preseason thus far, the second string defensive end spot has become a competition. DE Zach Kerr is also in the mix, however he will be out a couple weeks after suffering a knee injury. Harris’ five run stops (which constitute a “loss” for the offense) this preseason lead all 3-4 DEs, along with his 13.9 percent run stop percentage (minimum 25 run snaps).
- Though Gotsis was off to a rough start through the first two preseason games, he stepped up last week against the Green Bay Packers with four stops and three total pressures. Gotsis’ run stop percentage this preseason of 12.8 percent sits right behind Harris’ 13.9 percent. The final preseason game should shed some light on which of the two will have the larger role in 2017.
Players to Watch:
- Ken Ekanem, ED – Ekanem has been the highest graded Broncos edge defender in the preseason, with his best game (73.5 grade) coming in the Broncos’ first week against the Chicago Bears. He is tied for the team lead among edge defenders in total stops (3) and is making a case for playing time this season.
- Jordan Taylor, WR – The second-highest graded Broncos receiver this preseason, Taylor has proven to be a reliable target. Taylor enters preseason Week 4 with the eighth-highest passer rating when targeted (146.9, minimum five targets). He’ll look to keep things going against a Cardinals defense that has graded middle of the pack in pass coverage this preseason.
- Michael Schofield, G – Having played both right guard and left guard this preseason, Schofield is proving his versatility and appears to be an asset to the Broncos’ offensive line depth. He has been perfect protecting the quarterback thus far, allowing zero pressures on 22 pass block snaps.