In last week’s preseason game, the Cardinals accomplished what they needed to accomplish.
Backup quarterback Colt McCoy proved why he is the primary backup to Kyler Murray as he moved the ball downfield with precision passing and accuracy. 2020 seventh-round pick Eno Benjamin made an impact as a kickoff returner and as a running back. All the Cardinals’ top rookies made their presence felt in the preseason win.
Cardinals’ starters will be put to the test against the reigning AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs, who are expected to keep their first-string players in the game for most of the first half.
Chiefs’ HC Andy Reid on how much he will play his starters Friday night at Arizona against the Cardinals in a game on ESPN: “We’ll go a half, somewhere there about, with the starters, and then the twos and threes will take the second half.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 18, 2021
Here are six Cardinals players to watch as they take on the Chiefs on Friday, August 20 at 8 p.m. ET.
#1 Kyler Murray - Quarterback
Murray is expected to play in this Friday’s preseason matchup against the Chiefs. It is unclear whether DeAndre Hopkins or A.J. Green will be available but this is the Cardinals chance to see how quickly this offense can get rolling right out the gate in the drive or two Murray will play in.
The Cardinals started off slow in one too many games last year, especially in losses to the Panthers and Seahawks. Considering he was in street clothes in the preseason opener last week despite reports that he would play, there remains a possibility he will not suit up tomorrow as well.
Let’s see how much Murray has progressed entering year three with the Cardinals.
#85 Rondale Moore - Wide Receiver
Sweeps, options, trick plays. You name it, Rondale Moore was beyond amazing in his debut with the Cardinals. He finished with five touches for 39 scrimmage yards in his first preseason game. Although his stats were not spectacular, his impact was felt immediately. Moore looks like the perfect player to play the slot position in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense as a dynamic speedy wideout capable of executing the quick bubble screen plays the Cardinals love to dial up.
He is a much better fit in the slot than Cardinals’ legend Larry Fitzgerald, who has yet to announce his plans for the 2021 season. One too many short yardage gains or tackles for loss due to Fitzgerald’s lack of speed and quick acceleration. It is only the preseason so it probably is best to dial back the hype and the stock put into these performances. However, it gives coaches and fans a glimpse as to the type of player they can become in a consistent role.
Moore will be a major part of the Cardinals’ offense this season. He brings that game-changing potential that should also be in full display against the Chiefs.
#38 Greg Dortch - Wide Receiver
Aside from Dortch making that incredible 20-yard catch in the preseason, he has also been a standout during training camp since signing with the Cardinals on August 3. The small receiver (5’7’’ 175lbs) out of Wake Forest has made practice squad stints with the Falcons, Jets, and Rams. In his two regular season games with the Panthers in 2019, he returned five kickoffs for 119 yards and four punts for 28 yards.
The Cardinals have options for the returner positions in Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore but Kingsbury will want them to maximize efficiency on the offense and stay healthy by avoiding special teams. The Tyrann Mathieu ACL tear in 2013 on a punt return comes to mind. Andy Isabella is currently listed as the first-string kick returner but having missed significant practice time due to COVID and underwhelming career performances, he is not guaranteed a roster spot.
This means Dortch has a legitimate opportunity to make the Cardinals’ 53-man roster if he can continue to impress during the preseason as a receiver. Eno Benjamin could take Isabella’s kick return job.
#76 Margus Hunt - Defensive Tackle
Hunt was easily the Cardinals’ best defensive lineman in last week’s win over the Cowboys in a group that had an overall lackluster performance with all of their primary DL depth inactive. He had very solid play, from pass rush penetration to his impact on run defense. Pro Football Focus gave him a 78.3 pass rush grade, which was the best on the team.
2019 seventh-round pick Michael Dogbe is the favorite to land the seventh defensive line spot on the roster but Hunt certainly is not far behind. If he puts up yet another quality performance as a pass rusher, Hunt could very well make the 53-man roster after being signed only a week ago as a camp body.
This could turn into a Michael Dogbe vs. Margus Hunt position battle.
#9 Isaiah Simmons - Inside Linebacker
If everything goes according to plan with the Chiefs playing their starters throughout the first half, Simmons will be tasked to cover arguably the best tight end in the NFL in Travis Kelce with the best quarterback throwing to him in Patrick Mahomes. The Cardinals drafted Simmons No. 8 overall in 2020 to solve their coverage woes against tight ends. His coverage prowess and elite athleticism is what made him such a coveted draft prospect.
The Simmons and Zaven Collins inside linebacker duo played exceptionally well in their preseason debuts. Both will be tested on Friday as they face off against the top offense in the NFL. He might even have the opportunity to cover one of his best friends from college in Chiefs’ fifth-round pick Cornell Powell.
Simmons will need to work on his tackling but he will have plenty of time to brush that up this preseason.
#20 Marco Wilson - Cornerback
Rookie cornerback Marco Wilson had a stellar debut against the Cowboys by forcing three incompletions on six targets, including a near interception. He earned the second-best overall grade (83.7) on the defense with the highest grade (84.5) in coverage. He lined up out wide and in the slot as a versatile defensive back that should see plenty of playing time this season on the defense with the Cardinals.
Wilson was one of the most athletic cornerbacks in this year’s draft having ran a 4.35 40, jumped 43.5” on the vertical, and benching 26 reps. All of that was at full display in the 35 snaps he played last week. Just like Simmons, his coverage skills will be greatly tested especially if he sees playing time against the Chiefs’ first-string offense.
This list can go on forever and there will be many other Cardinals to watch on Friday night. I know Arizonans love Eno Benjamin as a former Arizona State Sun Devil and will want to see if he can replicate his success in game two. Sixth-round pick Tay Gowan has already become a fan favorite being a very interactive player on social media. He allowed only one catch on six targets last week.
This Arizona Cardinals vs. Kansas City Chiefs game will be a fun one.