As the Arizona Cardinals prepare to take on the Green Bay Packers tonight for their first preseason game, fans will eagerly watch how new head coach Bruce Arians runs the team. The team has traded for Carson Palmer to replace failed gambit Kevin Kolb. They have also released the longest tenured member of the team, Adrian Wilson, along with a few others that were overpaid and no longer fit with the team’s new philosophy. They have added many new pieces to strengthen the team, yet there are still many roster spots that need to be sorted.
Last season, the Cardinals were last in rushing. They signed Rashard Mendenhall to bolster their running game. Well, it appears that the running game will have to wait. Mendenhall and Ryan Williams are both dealing with knee injuries, while Andre Ellington is out with concussion like symptoms. This means free agent Alfonso Smith and rookie Stepfan Taylor will get opportunities to prove they deserve a roster spot during the preseason. Last season, the team used four starters at running back. This season may turn out to be the same if health remains an issue for the other backs.
This season, Arians will only have two quarterbacks, Palmer and Drew Stanton. Palmer threw for over 4,000 yards last season for the Oakland Raiders. Palmer attempts to repeat the feat and lead the team to a winning season. Meanwhile, Stanton is the backup and mentor to Palmer, as he is already familiar with Arians’ playbook when they were together last year with the Indianapolis Colts. There is huge pressure riding on Stanton if Palmer gets injured because he has no backup. Will Arians’ gamble on only two quarterbacks pay off?
The Cardinals have three confirmed wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, and Michael Floyd. Floyd is punishing himself by performing pushups on the sidelines whenever he drops the ball. The Cardinals plan to throw deep and it is up to Floyd to make sure he make the catch to deliver for his team. If not, we will see a lot of pushups during the preseason. The final wideout spot has eight players jockeying for it, many of them rookies. How well they perform in the preseason will determine that spot and who remains on the team.
Arians’ defensive philosophy is to lead the league in forced turnovers. He is emphasizing stripping the ball and picking off passes. Antoine Cason and Jerraud Powers are competing for the other starting cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson. Look for rookie Tyrann Mathieu to be a quarterback’s worst nightmare. He is expected to be a corner/safety hybrid.
While every defense boasts to confuse the other team, the Cardinals attempt to do that by turning their front seven into the most athletic and versatile defensive unit ever. They have many guys can play as a down lineman or a linebacker.