Game one of the preseason brings a renewed feeling of hope for fans and players alike.
There's the undying belief that this year could be special and that your team, in this instance the Cardinals, could turn it around and put themselves in the mix to be a contender.
The reality is that game one of the preseason is just the tasting course for what will be the entrée that is known as the regular season, but there are always juicy morsels that can be plucked from the opener.
What am I looking for in the Cardinals first preseason game? Glad you asked:
1. Let Carson Palmer and the first team throw the ball as much as possible.
Sure, the Cardinals running game is a question mark, but the reality is the running game isn't going to be what makes or breaks the Cardinals season. It's going to be how Palmer and the receivers coexist in Arians' intricate passing game.
I haven't expounded too much on the small intricacies of what Arians offense demands of his receivers and quarterbacks, but that's simply because I want to do so with Cardinals game film, because that's the only way to point out the pluses and minuses.
Arians demands precision and timing in his vertical attack, and while practice is good for route running and timing, it's going to take real game action to get into sync with the site adjustments that both Palmer and the receivers will need to make mid route.
If the first team is running only 15 plays, they need to use as many, I'd really be ok will all 15, to get those passing sets into rhythm before September 8 gets here.
What to watch for: If the Cardinals hit a homerun deep and get behind the defense that's obviously good, but let's not get too carried away, what we need to be looking for is the intermediate routes and how those passes are looking.
How's the timing, is Palmer on the same page with the receivers?
Is the offensive line, versus a defense that likely won't be bringing much in the way of exotic blitzes, keeping Palmer upright and giving him time to get through his progressions?
2. What's the defensive back rotation and how do they look?
I'm on record as to having concerns with this secondary right now.
Outside of Peterson there are a lot of question marks, but also a lot of talent.
I am looking forward to watching how defensive coordinator Todd Bowles utilizes his new toy in Tyrann Mathieu, and will be charting where they line him up on every snap he plays, but when will he come in, and when the first team is playing where will he be?
How does Yeremiah Bell look in coverage and is Rashad Johnson really a guy that can protect the back end of a defense and not get the top taken off?
What to watch for: Are we going to see Jerraud Powers or Antoine Cason move into the slot?
When does Jamell Fleming come off the bench?
How is Javier Arenas factoring in?
This is simple, as the first team is on the field pay attention the rotations in the sub package, who is coming off the bench first, and who is playing where.
3. Is there a pass rush being generated?
One of the things Todd Bowles must do in replacing Ray Horton is figure out a way to generate a pass rush, and while we shouldn't see too much in the way of blitzing packages, that doesn't mean the new Cardinals 3-4 defense shouldn't bring some heat.
What to watch for: How does the defense work and is it producing pressure from the defensive ends?
If not, is it Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander, Alex Okafor or John Abraham bringing pressure from the outside?
The main thing I want to see from the front seven is getting a push and putting pressure on the quarterback, and doing so without having to bring extra players on every passing down.
Obviously it won't be with a lot of reps, but in their limited playing time, I want to see some pressure put on Aaron Rodgers and company.
4. Hold up in the pass protection.
I hit on it a little in the passing section, but I want to see the Cardinals offensive line, and most importantly the starters, in pass protection sets, against a base style defense.
In last year's preseason games we saw the quarterbacks take a pounding, and with the age and fragility involved with their number one and two quarterbacks, the last thing the fans want to see is the quarterbacks getting hit consistently.
What to watch for: Levi Brown and Eric Winston both are notorious for struggling versus speed from the outside, and while Brown should finally have elite help, there are question marks about the right guard position.
If Brown doesn't have to worry about his inside being taken advantage of, and can concentrate on getting into his pass sets and pushing the rusher past the quarterback, one that understand how to step up in the pocket, will he be able to not give up his outside shoulder?
Can Winston prove that last year's struggles in pass protection versus speed rushers was a fluke knowing that he has to protect his inside shoulder on counter moves as well?
What about the interior?
Is Jonathan Cooper as good as advertised?
Is Lyle Sendlein completely healthy and will he be able to anchor?
What about that troubling right guard position, who steps up, and if it's Daryn Colledge is he proving healthy?
Other important things to watch:
How does Stepfan Taylor look at getting to and through the hole?
Is Andre Ellington getting better in pass protection?
Are Michael Floyd and Robert Housler ready to take on the burden of being focal points of the passing game?
How great is Tyrann Mathieu? (ok that last one is a joke... maybe).
Finally, what guys step up and show they are ready to have an impact when the games count?
More from Revenge of the Birds:
- Arizona Cardinals add DL Cordian Hagans, release Josh Hill
- Cardinals vs. Packers: 4 defensive players to watch
- Cardinals vs. Packers: 5 questions about Green Bay before 1st preseason game
- What will make the Arizona Cardinals stronger in 2013?
- Arizona Cardinals rookies Tyrann Mathieu, others get new haircuts