Four things to watch for in third Cardinals preseason game
Aug 25, 2018, 4:59 PM | Updated: Aug 26, 2018, 9:27 am
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
The Arizona Cardinals have had two games to discover potential breakout players and find their flaws.
In the third preseason game, they’ll get another look to see whether such events have been coincidence or a sign of things to come.
Doug Franz and Ron Wolfley were joined by Paul Calvisi on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf to discuss the four things they’re looking for against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.
1. Knock the rust off starters
Quarterback Sam Bradford has completed 100 percent of his passes. Running back David Johnson is averaging more than six yards per carry.
Now let’s take the bubble wrap off.
They need to work themselves back into game shape after both got injured last season.
“I want to see Sam Bradford take a hit and get up and do it again,” Wolfley said. “I think it’s going to be good for his confidence going forward if he gets that out of the way.”
Calvisi agreed, adding that he needs to face pressure before the real season starts.
“He said he wanted somebody around his legs, he wanted to feel that live rush,” Calvisi said. “You’ve gotta see him in the face of duress … so he’s ready to go in Week 1 and he’s calm.”
Meanwhile, Johnson hasn’t seen real game action in almost a full year.
Wolfley said Sunday will feature the “most significant reps” for him to get ready before Week 1.
“I want to see David “Dirty” Johnson get into space a few more times so he gets the opportunity to knock some of the rust off before he goes into the regular season,” Wolfley said. “This is probably going to be his last opportunity to do that.”
2. Gap Integrity
All three radio show personalities talked about the defensive line and linebackers, but Calvisi put it most succinctly.
“Don’t blow your gap. Don’t blow your assignment.”
This comes after a throttling at the hands of the New Orleans Saints running backs.
The group rushed for 183 yards, averaging 6.5 per carry, and presenting a glaring weakness in the Cardinals’ second preseason game.
Defensive coordinator Al Holcomb took note during practice this week.
“Guys are in position and then somebody gets nosy, jumps out of their gap and all of a sudden the ball is on the second level, it’s a 15-yard gain,” he said Thursday.
The injuries to defensive linemen Robert Nkimdiche, Corey Peters and Olson Pierre won’t help matters. Wilks has ruled all of them out of Sunday’s game.
Additionaly, Markus Golden is still recovering from his ACL injury.
Players like Benson Mayowa and Vontarrius Dora have been impressing Calvisi at practice.
“Let’s see if these guys are worthy,” Calvisi said, “or come September 1, are the Cardinals looking on the open market for someone to play opposite Chandler Jones?”
Wolfley said the importance of stopping the run cannot be overstated.
“Doom and gloom is on its way,” he warned.
This would force the Cardinals’ offensive to play one-dimension football and lose out on Johnson’s rushing attack as they played catch up.
“It all starts with shutting down the run and gap integrity,” Wolfley said. If you don’t have that, demoralization is on its way.”
3. Which wide receiver steps up Sunday?
As many questions revolve around the defensive line, the wide receiver room has an even larger question that’s looming overhead:
Who will be number two?
After an all-around concerning first preseason week for the group, Chad Williams and Christian Kirk stepped up against the Saints.
Kirk led the team with four receptions, 49 yards and had an impressive touchdown grab from quarterback Josh Rosen while Williams had three receptions and 44 yards.
“Nice job. Do it again,” Franz said.
Don’t just watch who could be number two, though. If both continue to play well — or if another option, like Brice Butler or J.J. Nelson begin playing better — it could open the field for the Cardinals offense.
“It changes everything for this franchise if you actually have two guys show up at receiver alongside Larry Fitzgerald,” Franz said.
Calvisi said the team might as well figure out who the legitimate receivers are by giving them as many targets as possible.
“I want to see them throw the ball, like, 50 times,” he said.
4. Let’s see Wilks coach
Franz said that head coach Steve Wilks treated practice like the regular season over this last week.
On the radio appearance, Franz directed his speech toward Wilks.
“You changed the paradigm — you brought the entire team to Tempe, you treated this like a regular week,” Franz said.
Now, he’s interested in seeing the fundamentals of Wilks as a head coach, including pre-snap penalties, how he game plans and how he manages timeouts during the two-minute offense.
As Franz put it, it’s “the things that you judge a head coach on during a game.”
“You put a little bit more importance on this game, so, I want to see how you do,” Franz said.
While the Cardinals have question marks around the field far beyond this list of questions, at the center of them all is Wilks.
The new head coach brought in a new style, a new staff and a new attitude.
He’s only two weeks away from playing a game that really, actually matters with his new team.
Kickoff is at 5 p.m Sunday.