NFL Hall of Fame Game 2012: What to Watch for in Preseason Opener

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NFL Hall of Fame Game 2012: What to Watch for in Preseason Opener
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A year ago, the NFL's work stoppage forced the league to cancel its annual Hall of Fame game. 

In 2012, however, the game will return when the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints open up the NFL preseason Sunday from Fawcett Field in Canton, Ohio. 

Below, we break down some things to watch in NFL's preseason opener. 

 

Turning the Page

The Saints just suffered through what many will consider one of the worst offseasons in NFL history. Sunday's start to the preseason should be the first step in turning the page.

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As you likely know, the NFL brought its legislative hammer down on New Orleans after the league discovered the Saints were running a pay-for-harm program over the span of nearly three years. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma and head coach Sean Payton were hit the hardest, with suspensions without pay for all of the 2012 season.

The Saints also dealt with a very public contract dispute with their best player, Drew Brees, for most of the offseason. Eventually, the two sides agreed on a record deal before camp began. 

After all the craziness of an offseason full of problems, the Saints should welcome a trip back to the normalcy of a football field.

 

Cardinals' QBs 

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One of the biggest storylines surrounding the Cardinals' offseason has been at quarterback, where Kevin Kolb and John Skelton are engaging in a positional battle early in camp.

Kolb, who the Cardinals traded for last offseason and then gave a monster deal, is the front-runner to win the job. But the decision remains a difficult one after Skelton led the Cardinals to five wins in seven starts to finish 2011. 

Sunday's preseason contest should give us our first true impression of the two quarterbacks. Kolb will start, but Skelton will get his looks, too.

Let's see if either can make a push in the first live action of 2012.

 

Players to Watch

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Michael Floyd, Arizona

The Cardinals first-round receiver has been stuck behind the likes of Andre Roberts and Early Doucet on the depth chart, but that hasn't stop him from making a big impression in camp. According to NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, Floyd has been one of the Cardinals' standouts. 

From Brooks:

He has been one of the standouts in camp, and Cardinals coaches are raving about his ability to contribute in the passing game. Although he has not earned the starting nod at this point, Floyd is a fixture on the outside in the Cardinals' four-receiver sets, giving opponents the unenviable task of matching up with two big receivers in spread formations. If he can continue to develop at a rapid pace throughout camp, there is no reason why Floyd couldn't tally 50-plus receptions as a rookie.

Let's see if Floyd can continue to impress in his first look in an NFL setting. A big preseason will make if very difficult for the Cardinals to keep him off the field. 

 

Johnny Patrick, New Orleans

Both Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson could miss Sunday's contest, meaning Patrick—the team's second-year cornerback—should get a long look.

The Saints are still searching for a third cornerback after the departure of Tracy Porter in free agency. Sunday should give Patrick an opportunity to put his name in the mix.  

 

Patrick Peterson, Arizona

There may not be a cornerback in the NFL currently with a ceiling as high as Peterson's. The Cardinals are expecting big things from their former top-5 pick, and rightfully so. 

On Sunday, the matchup between the playmaking Peterson and the precision-driven Brees should be a fun one to watch. One way or another, Peterson will want his hands on the football. 

 

Key Injuries

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Beanie Wells, Arizona

Wells was put on the PUP list to start camp while recovering from offseason knee surgery. He won't play.  

 

Ryan Williams, Arizona

Williams missed all of his rookie season after going down in the 2011 preseason, but he's fought his way back. However, the Cardinals are remaining cautious and he may not go Sunday. 

 

Patrick Robinson/Jabari Greer, New Orleans

Neither cornerback is expected to play Sunday. Robinson has a bum shoulder and Greer injured his groin. 

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