Training camp has already come and gone and the witching hour is nigh...
The Arizona Cardinals have two more preseason games before they are forced to cut their roster down to the maximum allowed 53 players on September 2nd. Before that, players will have a couple more chances to show the higher-ups that they deserve a spot on the team.
The tough part about it is that most of the roster is already solidified. It will be those bottom few spots that are up for grabs among nearly 40 players, so making the team will be a tall task. That is why playing up to their full potential will be paramount in importance for each man on Saturday in their game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Let’s take a look at a few players we will be watching as well as some other specific items.
The Punting Competition: This battle is one that we know Bruce Arians would’ve liked to have settled by now, yet here we are, waiting to find out who will be the team’s punter and, perhaps equally as important, the holder for Phil Dawson on field goals. Neither Richie Leone or Matt Wile have separated themselves thus far, but there are rumblings that Wile has a slight lead in the competition to this point. Keep an eye on punt hangtimes and if there are any botched holds in tonight’s game.
Defensive line: If Robert Nkemdiche is forced to miss any regular season time due to his most recent calf injury, other players will have to step up. Both Frostee Rucker and Josh Mauro are reliable and savvy veterans, but they can’t be the only two on the field throughout an entire game. Olsen Pierre has flashed at times this preseason, but it has always been against inferior competition. Meanwhile, Rodney Gunter has basically been invisible much like he was last season. Keep an eye on this entire unit to see how they perform in what will be the final tuneup game for starters.
Wide Receivers: BA has continuously called out this position group for their lack of stellar play throughout training camp. And it seems to be for good reason.
I am not sure how this unit is going to stack up if John Brown is going to be hampered by injuries again all season long. There isn’t a true #2 wide receiver on the team, but either Jaron Brown or J.J. Nelson may have to fill that role. Let’s see how they play tonight against a team with plenty of pass rushing talent. They will need to get separation and find holes in the defense so that Carson Palmer can get the ball out of his hands.
Justin Bethel: Bethel, by all accounts, seems to have improved drastically over his performance last season. He has improved so much, in fact, that he was officially named the team’s starting #2 corner to start the season. Of course, we don’t know how long of a leash Arians will give him, especially with a capable veteran in Tramon Williams breathing down his neck. Against Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu, Bethel certainly has his work cut out for him.
What do you think Cardinals fans? Who will you be watching in the preseason game tonight? We should see the starters play plenty, so this may be the best viewing we get before the season officially kicks off.