On Friday, football returns to the desert. The Arizona Cardinals will suit up in a preseason game for the first time since 2019, taking on America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, in Scottsdale. Last time out, in Week 6 of the 2020 regular season, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals steamrolled the Dak Prescott-less Cowboys in what was one of Arizona’s best performances of the year.
Speaking with the media, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury indicated that he expected most guys to see some playing time. He also confirmed Kyler Murray would get some reps in the game. With a new appreciation for the preseason and a chance to see the new-look 2021 Arizona Cardinals in action, let’s take a look at Cardinals vs Cowboys in Week 1 of the NFL preseason.
Arizona Cardinals Preseason: Week 1 Matchup Preview
Cardinals Expect Most Guys To Get Some Snaps; Release First Unofficial Depth Chart
Kliff Kingsbury was quick to confirm that Kyler Murray would certainly get on the field in Friday’s game against Dallas. However, it is reasonable to assume that his appearance will be little more than a brief cameo. Instead, quarterback snaps are expected to be split between veteran backup Colt McCoy and last year’s backup Chris Streveler. In a similar sense, Cardinals fans shouldn’t expect to see much of DeAndre Hopkins or A.J. Green either; the latter has already had some ‘minor’ injury concerns this off-season. Despite the buzz surrounding the return of preseason, Arizona’s prerogative will still be to protect their stars.
Ahead of this week’s game, the organization released the team’s first unofficial depth chart of the season, giving some indication as to the progression of some of training camp’s biggest storylines. Notable mentions include Justin Murray starting at right guard and Andy Isabella being listed as A.J. Green’s backup. Many believed that Isabella would be on his way out when the Cardinals drafted Rondale Moore, but the former second-round pick is still trying to carve out a role on Arizona’s offense. His preseason performances may define his future with the Cardinals.
In the absence of the biggest stars, expect to see a slew of unknowns lining up. Keep an eye out for #82, wide receiver Andre Baccellia, and #48, tight end Ross Travis, both of whom have looked good in training camp.
Creating Synergy on Defense
Although there is expected to be massive offensive rotation for the Cardinals, there may be a little more continuity on defense against the Cowboys. Namely, the inside linebacker duo of Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins should play more than other projected starters. Simmons, 2020’s top pick, was robbed of his first preseason by Covid-19 and his early-season play reflected it. Getting Simmons on the field with his new running mate will be a feature of Arizona’s preseason. There may also be an opportunity for Jordan Hicks to demonstrate his role in a new sub-package.
Expect to see much of the 2020 and 2021 draft classes on the field, especially down in the trenches, with J.J. Watt likely to sit out much of the preseason with injury concerns. In the secondary, look for rookie cornerback Marco Wilson making an appearance. While Arizona continues to figure out its secondary depth, Wilson has been running first-team reps in practice this past week.
A Look at the Dallas Cowboys
Just like with the Cardinals, there will be a chance to see some of Dallas biggest names on Friday. Quarterback Dak Prescott earned himself a franchise contract this off-season. He will see some playing time as he works back from the broken ankle that shut him down in 2020. Again though, protecting him will be key, so anything more than a brief appearance would be a real surprise.
Another of the Cowboys offensive stars, Ezekiel Elliott, looks to recover from a very different ailment. Elliott endured a tough campaign in 2020, fumbling twice against the Cardinals in what was a thumping in Arlington. However, coming in at his lightest weight since freshman year at Ohio State, Elliott looks to recapture the form that saw him become a two-time NFL rushing champ.
Hype around Micah Parsons continues to build as he will make his NFL debut against the Cardinals on Friday. Parsons was the first linebacker taken, ahead of Arizona’s Zaven Collins. He is the odds-on favourite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. Fans should also look forward to seeing an upward trending player in wideout CeeDee Lamb. Lamb, formerly Kyler Murray’s favourite target at Oklahoma, was heavily linked to the Cardinals last year. After a good start in Dallas, his training camp performances have gone viral, most recently putting Jalen Ramsey in a blender during a joint practice.
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