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The 5: Players to watch in Cardinals’ preseason opener

Football is finally here!

Sort of.

The Cardinals open their 2016 preseason Friday at home against the Oakland Raiders, and for many, it will be an exciting first look at a team that some see as a Super Bowl favorite.

Head coach Bruce Arians said his starters will not play more than a series or so, though some of the younger players may see a little more time than that.

So, what is there to watch for? Here are five players you should keep an eye on.

D.J. Humphries

Humphries_The team’s first-round pick in 2015 was not active for a single game, though coaches have maintained he would have been able to play if needed over the second half of the season. He wasn’t needed then; he is needed now. Humphries is projected to be the team’s starting right tackle, and though he is very talented, he is also as unproven as a player can get. Plenty of positive things have been said about the former Florida Gator in camp, though as good as may be performing in practice, there is nothing quite like facing an actual opponent. How will the second-year pro hold up in his first game action in a year?

Brandon Williams

Brandon Williams,Michael FloydThe third-round pick out of Texas A&M figured to be a project, not a starter in year one. Yet, here we are. Due in large part to Justin Bethel’s slow recovery from offseason foot surgery, Williams has been inserted into the starting lineup. He’s played well in that role, getting beat at times but making plays, too. Head coach Bruce Arians said the starting job is now his to lose, so now it’s up to him not to do that. In practice he’s faced off with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and J.J. Nelson, so it’s difficult to imagine him lining up against a better or more diverse group of players Friday. But whoever he is opposite, it will be interesting to see how he fares.

Matt Barkley

Barkley_Though he was with the team all last season, this is Barkley’s first training camp and preseason as a Cardinal. He’s had his ups and downs in camp — Arians said he’s been like a yo-yo — and is currently fighting to make the roster. The former USC Trojan and Philadelphia Eagle will likely enter the game in the first half — possibly even the first quarter — and play until giving way to Jake Coker in the fourth quarter. This will be everyone’s first chance to see him play in an Arizona uniform, and it will imperative that Barkley shows a good command of the offense.

Evan Boehm

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERABy all accounts, A.Q. Shipley is and will remain the team’s starting center. After him the depth chart is murky, though it figures at some point the fourth-round pick out of Missouri will rise to the top. With Earl Watford out due to a knee injury, Boehm stands to receive plenty of reps in Friday night’s game. Given that his biggest challenge appears to be learning the team’s offense, his issues — if there are any — should be fairly evident. Does he make the right calls? Is he in the right place on every play? If the answer to both of those questions is “yes,” then he may find his way onto the field sooner than later.

 

Chris Hubert

Hubert_Every training camp there are a few players who seem to come out of nowhere and really stand out. Often times, though, they fade to the background once the lights come on and the games begin. Will receiver Chris Hubert be one of those guys? A “pleasant surprise” so far, the player who went undrafted out of Fayetteville State and ended up in Arizona by way of a tryout will get his first chance to show what he’s done in practice can translate in a game against an actual opponent. Sure, he’s not likely to match up with Oakland’s best corners, but if he can show the same speed, quickness and hands Friday as he has early in camp, the team may yet find room on its roster for the diminutive receiver.

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