Published September 03, 2013
TEMPE, Ariz. – Take a bad season, add a new coach and the result is a whole lot of turnover on the Arizona Cardinals.
Twenty-six of the 53 players are new to the team this year, and that's not surprising given the state of this franchise when coach Bruce Arians replaced the fired Ken Whisenhunt.
"There's a new head coach here, so obviously he's going to bring in guys that he likes around the league," said inside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, one of the newcomers. "A new coaching staff, a new GM, so there's going to be some turnover. When you lose, they're going to change the personnel that fits what they like to do. I think he brought in some guys he likes, that's going to help us win some games."
Arizona was 5-11 a year ago, losing 11 of its last 12.
Arians said it's a league-wide trait for there to be a big change in the roster from one year to the next, with veteran players with bigger contracts being let go in favor of the less expensive younger alternative.
"Probably the average is 20," Arians said. "The faces, especially the bottom half of that roster, are changing on everybody now. There are probably a few teams that maybe have 13, but those contracts keep getting up there, you can't keep them long."
It's an incentive for older players to compete regardless of their contract status.
"It's always a revolving door," inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. "You go out and leave it all out on the field because you never know when it's your last day."
If the current depth chart is accurate, the starting offense has four new starters: quarterback Carson Palmer, running back Rashard Mendenhall, right tackle Eric Winston, right guard Paul Fanaika. The defense has Alexander or John Abraham at outside backer, Brinkley and Karlos Dansby at inside linebacker, Jerraud Powers at cornerback and Yeremiah Bell at safety. When the team goes to a pass protection package, add rookie safety/cornerback Tyrann Mathieu to that mix.
Two undrafted rookie free agents are on the team, at least for now: wide receiver Jaron Brown from Clemson and safety Tony Jefferson from Oklahoma.
The 6-foot-2 Brown made it as the No. 4 wide receiver.
"I was a little nervous, but I think I was more worried about my Clemson Tigers winning that Georgia game," Brown said after the team practiced on Monday.
He said "it means a lot" to make the roster after not being drafted.
"I'm real humble, and it's a blessing really," Brown said. "One thing I've got to do is just not get complacent and keep working."
There are only four wide receivers on the roster, and Arians said he doesn't see that expanding in the foreseeable future.
"There's no pressure," Brown said. "I've just got to come here with the same mindset I had in camp, and that's trying to get better every day."
Jefferson was considered a potential practice squad player but made the team the old-fashioned way, simply by his playmaking in practice and especially in the preseason games.
"I just stuck my head in the fire," he said. "I put everything aside, whether I got drafted or not. It kind of just added fuel for me. My motto was, 'Make it tough for the people upstairs. When the time comes, can they pass you up?'"
Arians said one reason he was all right with having only four receivers is the role he sees for cornerback Patrick Peterson on offense. Peterson said there are some 60 plays for him on offense now.
"Fitz (Larry Fitzgerald) was kidding me," Peterson said, "He said, 'Technically, you're our fifth receiver.'"
Fitzgerald left immediately after practice for a flight to Pittsburgh, where the university is set to retire his number Monday night.
The Cardinals have Tuesday off, then resume practice Wednesday. The team opens its season Sunday at St. Louis.
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