Game 1 of the preseason got the Bruce Arians tenure off to a great start. Unfortunately for Arians and the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL is a what have you done lately league, and all that goodwill built up over the last week and a day since their trouncing of the Green Bay Packers can go away quickly if things go wrong in Glendale tonight.
What to watch for in game two of the preseason:
Where's the running game-
Rashard Mendenhall should make his Cardinals debut tonight, and in doing so, brings the hope and expectations of a viable running game for the Cardinals.
More than anything the offensive line needs to gel and work as a singular unit in the run game, as they did so well in the protection of Carson Palmer in game one.
There needs to be an onus put on the offensive line to really win the battle up front, especially with the injuries to the Cowboys, they are missing two starters on their defensive line, and not just protect Palmer, but to provide running lanes for the backs, and for the running backs to make plays in the running game.
Whether it's Mendenhall, Stepfan Taylor, Andre Ellington in his debut (self-high five for excitement), or Alphonso Smith, give these guys consistent running lanes to work with and let them show their ability.
Also, if the starting unit struggles to win at the point of attack in the run game this week, the concerns will be replaced with a full blown problem running the football.
The pass blocking in general was the toast of the Packers game, as the quarterbacks, all the quarterbacks, were able to bring Arians' dream passing game to reality with deep sets, long developing routes, and chunk throws being made.
Well in week two the passing game should look even better, with no real pass rush threat outside of DeMarcus Ware suiting up for the Cowboys, and there shouldn't be great pass coverage going on with Morris Claiborne sidelined and the Cowboys not having much in the way of depth in their young and evolving secondary.
The offensive line needs to keep Palmer clean again, and let the timing continue to be worked out in the passing game.
Maybe even more than the run blocking, the lack of a pass rush has been one of the consistent worries from at least one writer here at ROTB (looks in mirror) and those concerns were elevated in week one of the preseason when Aaron Rodgers carved up the Cardinals starting defense (missing their likely starting ILBs).
This week they get another shot at an offensive line in flux with the Cowboys trying to figure out a combination of interior lineman to protect Tony Romo, starting guard Ron Leary is out for at least four weeks with a knee scope, and with a rookie at center, and freshly off the injured list Mackenzy Bernadeau is getting his first game action of the preseason.
It's time for the interior of Coach Todd Bowles one gap defense to turn up the pressure, and there may not be a better team to do it against.
All eyes on Mathieu-
If the Cardinals can't generate a consistent pass rush in their 20 or so first team defensive snaps versus the Cowboys first team offense it'll result in a great test for the secondary, and specifically rookie Tyrann Mathieu.
While Mathieu will likely get the start at free safety, reports are he could still get the bulk of his snaps in the slot in nickel situations.
That likely will come against fellow rookie Terrance Williams, who has been sidelined most of camp with a concussion.
The Cowboys starting offense, at least at the skill positions seems to be mostly intact, and should provide another high quality test for a first team secondary that was picked apart fairly easily in game one of the preseason when facing the Packers first team offense.
Make a kick or two-
The kicking game was one of the biggest disappointments of game one, and if this team is as good as Pete Prisco thinks they will be, and they play as many close games as he predicted, seven games were decided by four points or less, the kicking game is going to be very important this season.
Kicking outdoors at Lambeau Field is never an easy task, even in the summer and what looked like ideal conditions, but this week Feely is at home, in the dome, and has a chance to prove himself.
If he struggles another week, it may be time to hit the waiver wire for more than a nose tackle and tight end.
What are you going to be watching most closely this week as the Cardinals take on the Cowboys in Glendale?
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