Week 3 of the preseason has arrived, the closest NFL teams get to a dress rehearsal. The Cardinals have managed to start out with a few wins behind their destructive defense, with the offense improving much between weeks one and two. This is usually the week we see the first string try to play as much as an entire half, but that may not be the case with all players. Here’s a look at what to watch for in week 3 for the Arizona Cardinals as they take on the Dallas Cowboys.
What To Watch For: Starting Offense
This should be a great test for Arizona’s offensive line. Dallas has no shortage of pass rushers, including DeMarcus Lawrence. They also have very athletic linebackers in Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, so the run and pass blocking will be tested. David Johnson has been a monster in limited action, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see him much, if at all.
The quarterbacks should be looking to take advantage of a young secondary if they can get enough time. Sam Bradford has yet to have a moment this preseason to endear himself to the Arizona faithful, and the Dallas D is prone to allow big plays. He’ll need to find early rapport with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk if he wants to hold off the fans chants for Josh Rosen.
Speaking of Rosen, we probably won’t see him until the 3rd quarter, but he looked impressive last week. He may not have many weapons around him once he enters the game, but another solid outing may help usher his era in sooner rather than later.
This game should also help us figure out the final depth chart at wide receiver. Fitz and Kirk are locks, so it’s between J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler, and Chad Williams. We should see Chad win that third spot when all is said and done.
What To Watch For: Defense
This one is a bit of a trap. Dallas has decided not to play Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott for the rest of the preseason. They also will be missing multiple members of their vaunted offensive line. If Arizona’s defense continues playing at a high level, the pundits will say it’s because of the missing opponents. If they struggle, the word will be that it’s the end of days.
There’s still a game to be played, however, and still things this defense can accomplish. Ben Benwikere and Budda Baker have had strong performances all offseason, and another one would cement the staff’s confidence in the back end. Along with Patrick Peterson, Arizona has a great collection of talent in the defensive backfield.
The defensive front should get some sacks, with young quarterbacks and an inexperienced line on the other side, but watch how Arizona plays against the run. Dallas has a good stable of backup runners, with Rod Smith and Bo Scarbrough getting most of the attention. Their third option, Darius Jackson, will probably not make the team but has flashed big-play ability. He’ll be playing for 31 other teams come Sunday. If Arizona keeps them bottled up, that’ll be the biggest plus heading into the regular season.
The last thing to watch for is turnovers. No matter if it’s preseason, defenses that can force turnovers, play into January more often than not. This squad can be right up there with Minnesota and Philadelphia as the tops in the NFL if they play to their full potential, and that means turnovers.
What To Watch For: Quick Hits
This won’t be a popular opinion but I don’t want to see David Johnson out there very long. He is the heart and soul of this offense and he’s shown he’s ready to go. Give him a nice bubble to hang out in until week 1.
Last week the offensive line looked capable. Not good, but it was an improvement. Watch how much space they can create in the run game, and how long they hold off the first team pass rushers.
Before 2002, the Cardinals and Cowboys were rivals, both in the NFC East. How two desert teams were in a division called the “east” I can’t say, but these teams have a history. From Emmitt Smith finishing his years in Arizona to the Cardinals knocking Dallas from the playoffs 27-7 after being swept by Dallas in the regular season, it’s always nostalgic to see these uniforms clash.
One last week for the kicking battle! Okay, it’s probably Phil Dawson‘s job, everyone brings in legs for camp, but Matthew McCrane hits dingers. He is Big Al in kicking form. I want to see one from 60!
The preseason is winding down after this week, as the last game is usually just a walk-through. This season has already had its ups and downs, and I can’t wait to get started. We’ll be back with our takeaways from this game as we prepare for the real show to begin.