I know what you are thinking. This is just a preseason game.
In fact, just the first. It doesn't mean anything. Let's get out of this game with no injuries. And in response, I would say, you're right.
However, this is more than just a preseason game for the Cardinals.
There are rookies and veterans who need to make more than just an impression. They need to make a name. A signature.
But if you are like me, the questions are there for other aspects. With every one doubting the Cardinals this year, that chip on their shoulders is heavier.
It's deeper. It's thicker.
And I think it's just how they like it.
Tonight here are few things we need to see.
1. Watch Matt Leinart. This is a no-brainer, right? He is the starter and he needs to act like it. But what I am watching for is his swagger. It's been said that Matt looks different. He likes like he has his confidence back from Southern Cal. That may be, but this is the NFL. Not a lot of people respect him right now. Tonight isn't gonna change that regardless of his performance, but it will go a long way in helping people at least give him more than a causal glance. Honestly, I like Matt. I like the fact that he gets to show what he can do as the leader without a whole bunch of pressure, but do not think for a second that if he struggles I won't be in favor of pulling him. The Cardinals are two time division champions. That means something. Let's see if Matt can tell us what it means to him.
2. Watch the young guys. Of course, we want to see what the rookies we drafted this year can do but what about Will Davis? His year was cut short last year before it began but he had promise. Training camp has proved this true. Cody Brown, Rashad Johnson, and Greg Toler all need to show that they belong in the league. Tonight, all of these guys should get good playing time, and they need to take advantage of it. But here is who excites me. Rookie wide receiver Stephen Williams. This guy has performed in camp and made some Fitzgerald-like catches. He has the size and hands to become a serious player in this league. The sad thing is, he has such an uphill battle. Fitzgerald, Breaston, and Doucet are locks, but I am calling it right now folks. My prediction Williams will outplay Jones and Gant and be on this squad.
3. The running game. With the aerial attack being a bit more balanced this year, the Cardinals running game has to show some improvement. Last year, Beanie Wells played well, however, and this is a big one. He fumbled a lot. Too much. Tim Hightower didn't play bad, but he didn't overly impress. Don't get me wrong, they didn't have the opportunities last year that they will this year. That's why I am reserving judgement a bit. But let's see what we have behind Beanie and Tim. I think Larod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith will get plenty of playing time tonight. Can they make enough noise to cement the Cardinals running game?
4. Backup Quarterback. I know a lot of folks want to see what Derek Anderson can do. I do too, but what really intrigues me is what is happening between Max Hall and John Skelton. I like what I see from Hall. Tonight, I am really going to pay attention to what he does. I think he will surpass Skelton for the 3rd spot, but from what I have seen and read Skelton is a sight to behold. As far as Anderson, I suppose I need to really examine his progress even though he has been so sporadic in camp. Sadly, all it takes is one freak injury to Matt Leinart, and Anderson becomes the man. Yeah, I am scared too.
5. The key losses on offense and defense. You won't replace a Kurt Warner. Period. But people are so focused on the loss of Boldin. The Cardinals will miss him but not nearly as much as people think. Remember our record without Boldin? 6-1 over the past two seasons. I think they will be OK. The one person I personally won't miss is Antrel Rolle. He was a decent safety but not for the money he got. Sorry. Let's flashback to the second to last play of the playoff game versus the Packers. Rolle almost became the MVP for the Packers for his mistake in coverage. Fortunately, he was bailed out but an overthrown ball by Rodgers but I think this is another departure that won't hurt the Cardinals. Dansby, however, will be severely missed. He did a lot of things right. He was always at the scene of the crime so to speak. He was a ball magnet. The Cardinals will miss his playmaking ability.
6. The intangibles. I just want to know how this Cardinals team reacts to being an after-thought in the NFC. No Kurt. No Boldin. No Rolle. No problem? We will see. Can Matt maintain his composure? Can Beanie handle the ball securely? Can Joey Porter establish a pass rush and look like his former self? Can Darnell Dockett continue to be the underpaid beast that he is? Can the fans hang in there if Matt loses his first few games? All of these questions will start to be answered tonight.