Put the children to bed, grab a snack and enjoy the first live look of the 2021 Arizona Cardinals. At 10 pm eastern time tonight, they will face the Dallas Cowboys on NFL Network. This will be Dallas’ second preseason game, while it will be the first for the Cardinals.
We will have our first look at some new free-agent acquisitions and rookies. Starters playing time should be limited if they play at all.
After surveying the roster, I narrowed down three players to keep an eye on during Friday night’s match-up.
WR KeeSean Johnson
Third-year wideout KeeSean Johnson should receive a fair share of playing time against the Cowboys. Fellow receiver Andy Isabella is unlikely to suit up for the first preseason game due to entering Covid-19 protocol for the second time.
Johnson could create space between him and Isabella on the depth chart. Kyler Murray and Johnson have a nice rapport/trust. Special teams can certainly secure a spot on the roster, but adding quality and reliable receiving depth increases those chances substantially.
If Johnson can string together productive preseason games, his name could rise on the depth chart. I will be watching to see if he can take advantage of his opportunities.
LB Zaven Collins
The Cardinals' top draft pick will receive his first taste of NFL live action. Zaven Collins adds athleticism, versatility, and play-making ability to this defense. Collins has flashed during his coverage reps during training camp.
Against a talented Cowboys passing attack, Collins should be tested when asked to drop and cover. His ability to change directions without losing momentum or balance is a treat. In his first action, we may receive a glimpse into the mind of Vance Joseph and how he will deploy his new toy.
RB Eno Benjamin
James Conner was placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list as a high-risk close contact. Second-year running back Eno Benjamin may see a sizeable workload to start the preseason. Once clear, Conner will surely play a specific role for the Cardinals' offense.
Eno Benjamin is a dynamic pinball type of back. Electric in space with the ball in his hands, like Chase Edmonds. Conner’s absence opens a window for Benjamin to showcase his abilities as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. His elusiveness makes it difficult to bring him down in the open field.
Keep an eye out for Benjamin’s usage within the offensive game plan.