Cardinals vs. Packers: 4 defensive players to watch

USA TODAY Sports

What players on the defensive side of the ball will we have our eyes on Friday?

Friday marks the first time in eight months the Arizona Cardinals will take the field in an NFL game, and although it is just preseason game one there is plenty that we can glean from the action on the field versus the Green Bay Packers.

While the starters are only going to get about 15 snaps in the game, there are a solid 50 players fighting for about 20 roster spots, and that means there will be some intense battles to pay attention too.

Here are the four players I am most looking forward to watching on Friday night.

Alex Okafor, OLB/DE

When the Cardinals go into their nickel and dime packages that Jess has spoken about fervently in his camp updates he's mentioned that Okafor has played both standing up and with his hand in the dirt.

The thing that I am most interested in is from what position he plays better, if he looks comfortable dropping into coverage, if he's getting after the quarterback, and where he's having the most impact.

The concern for Okafor coming out of Texas was he lacked explosion as was more of a worker than an elite pass rusher, and while those players are needed, that's not what the Cardinals need him to be right now.

Matt Shaughnessy, DE/OLB

Much like Okafor I am intrigued by where they line Shaughnessy up on a snap by snap basis, but more importantly I want to see where his greatest impact comes from.

Shaughnessy is a massive "outside linebacker" and while he shows good movement skills for a 3-4 defensive end and defensive tackle, he doesn't have prototypical speed off the edge, but he has a nice burst, closes well, and is a long and strong athlete.

Shaughnessy's flexibility in this defense is what excites me the most, and while I know it won't be shown much Friday, he's a guy I'm excited to watch this week.

Jamell Fleming, CB

Fleming has struggled to make a splash in camp.

While he hasn't been bad, he hasn't made a ton of plays that say he needs to make this roster.

On the other hand he has the look of a special team's ace, and can really add quite a bit in that phase of the game.

What I want to see in a game where he'll get plenty of snaps is that physical play he's so well known for, and to begin to do it on a more consistent, play to play basis.

Tony Jefferson, S

Out of all the late round draft picks and undrafted free agents that have been brought in by the Cardinals in 2013, Tony Jefferson was the one I had pegged as a sleeper.

Well, either most in the media and on the team are sleeping on him, or he hasn't exactly show out as a guy that can make the roster coming out of camp.

Jefferson lacked elite range coming out wasn't a great athlete, but he always seemed to be around the ball and making plays in college at Oklahoma.

Now in the NFL, on a team that needs youth and talent at the safety position, Jefferson needs to flip the switch on and start making plays to have a chance to make the roster, because if he does he'll likely get on the field during the season.

While there are some specific alignments and players, hello future star Tyrann Mathieu, that I am looking forward to seeing play in the preseason, in week one I want to see the players that are fighting for playing time, rosters spots, and how some new additions are going to look in their new roles (plus Mathieu deserves his own write up, which will be coming up shortly).

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