It's finally here Cardinals fans, the NFL regular season starts this morning. The Cardinals start the season at home hosting a division rival, the Seattle Seahawks. The Preseason ended with some surprises from the front office; primarily naming John Skelton the starting quarterback , but also trading away a previous starting CB, releasing a veteran OLB and bringing in new OLB depth, keeping a standout running back and WR, and signing some veteran depth to the offensive line. With many returning faces and some new the stage is set, let's take a look at some things we should watch for after the jump.
Big John Skelton will be making his first appearance after being named starter over multi-millionaire Kevin Kolb. The good news is, he's doing it against a team he beat during the 2011 season finale. Skelton used his physical skills to extend the play and gave Pete Carroll's defense fits in the fourth quarter and lead the team to an OT victory. Skelton's claim to fame has been making fourth quarter drives and winning games. It will be interesting to watch if Skelton is able to play with that 2011 4th Quarter sense of urgency from the beginning of the game, or if it will take him a few series to settle into his rhythm as he will be working behind an offensive line that is full of question marks.
The Offensive Line:
The Offensive line has too much to watch for. To begin the O-line will feature two starters from the previous year in LG Darryl Colledge and C Lyle Sendlein. The other three starters will be LT D'Anthony Batiste, probable RG Snyder, and rookie RT Bobby Massie. There is a chance Snyder might miss the game, so we'll be watching to see who lines up at RG and how the chemistry between that person and Massie plays out. We'll need to watch RT Massie go up against a quickly rising pass rush from the Seahawks defense, and we'll be watching to see if the line can find a way to keep Skelton upright and bust open some holes for the running backs that should be heavily featured this season.
The Running Backs:
Starting RB Beanie Wells may have to miss the season opener due to a sore hamstring which would give him an extra week to rest his knee from his surgery for undisclosed issues. If Wells does sit, Preseason standout and fellow knee-surgery recoverer Ryan Williams will get a chance to start his first regular season game after missing the 2011 season. This could be very fun to watch what Williams can do with a full load as a featured back. It also opens the door for LSH and even Powell to get some carries to share Williams workload. No matter who starts the RBs should be a heavily leaned on producer in the offense this year and with FB Anthony "Sherman Tank" Sherman leading the way it should be very fun to watch. With a running game actually working it will take pressure of off the QB and passing game and should open up plays to one of the greatest WRs in the game.
The Wide Receivers:
This one is quick. Keep your eyes on Larry Fitzgerald, he never disappoints. Also note, the last time Fitz and Skelton played the Seahawks Fitz racked up 149 yards. Again, keep you eyes on Larry Fitzgerald. We'll need to watch how Andre Roberts and Early Doucet are used, and it will be interesting to see how the Cards start to work in 1st round draft pick Michael Floyd.
Last but not least, we need to keep an eye on Ray Horton's second year defense. They ended the 2011 season dominant, they have retooled and are featuring O'Brien Schofield at LOLB and rising star Sam Acho at ROLB. The pass rush will be something to watch and hopefully SS Adrian Wilson will bring some pressure against Seattle's rookie QB and set the tone for playing in the Arizona Cardinals stadium. The Defense has so much to watch for; such as Patrick Peterson's growth as a CB, William Gay's play on the outside and in the nickel, and if/when rookie CB Jamell Fleming will get a chance to see some action. Will Stewart Bradley and Paris Lenon rotate throughout the game, or will one have more playing time than the other?
Honorable mention: The TE's who will have their work cut out for them this week as they will be relied upon to help provide protection while the OL settles and also act as check downs for Skelton if the WRs are covered. Something tells me Housler is going to start turning into a weapon on the offense, and King will be used to help the tackle that is struggling most.
What will you be watching for?