The Arizona Cardinals open their preseason slate on Friday evening at home against the Oakland Raiders, and head coach Bruce Arians' squad has already produced an extensive injury report.
Arians said Wednesday the following players will miss the preseason opener: Wide receiver John Brown, offensive lineman Taylor Boggs, linebacker Alani Fua, wide receiver Brittan Golden, cornerback Asa Jackson, cornerback Michael Jenkins, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, nose tackle Corey Peters, defensive end Zack Wagenmann and offensive lineman Earl Watford.
Additionally, Arians noted cornerback Cariel Brooks, defensive lineman Olsen Pierre and wide receiver Jaxon Shipley are "iffy" for Friday's contest.
With cornerback Justin Bethel, safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker still listed on the team's physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the Cardinals are without 13 players from their 90-man preseason roster and could play without as many as 16 players.
Traditionally, the first preseason game is an opportunity for coaching staffs to evaluate second and third team players and give starters a small taste of live game action, so Friday's game against Oakland will provide Arians and general manager Steve Keim with an extended opportunity to look at players on the margins of the roster competing for roles.
With many absences certain, we're providing a look at what players should see considerable playing time on Friday night.
In: Jaron Brown, Chris Hubert
Few Cardinals' players have enjoyed the types of camps Jaron Brown and Hubert have, as both players are among our top five standouts of the preseason. With John Brown and Golden sitting in game one, the Cardinals' receiver depth is somewhat depleted. It's hard to imagine Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd playing much more than a few series, so Brown and Hubert should have the chance to pair with Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley and bring the skills they've showcased throughout camp to a larger stage. Hubert is in a legitimate battle with Golden for a roster spot, so his performance will be monitored closely.
McClain has a serious opportunity to lay claim to a roster spot with a strong performance on Friday night, considering we already have him pegged as our seventh highest-rated offensive lineman on the Cardinals' squad. With both Boggs and Watford out, Boehm should take second and third team reps as he's the only center on the roster who will be active aside from starter A.Q. Shipley. Friday is the ideal opportunity for Boehm to challenge himself against a complex and talented Oakland front, and Cardinals management will learn a lot about their fourth round draft pick based on his efforts against the Raiders.
Cariel Brooks has used camp to solidify his status as the Cardinals' third corner behind Patrick Peterson and Brandon Williams thanks to the absences of Jenkins and Bethel. Now, with Brooks questionable to play, Ball could play meaningful reps against Oakland's first and second team offense. The Raiders have big, physical receivers and an up-and-coming passer in Derek Carr who will provide a test, and if Ball passes, the Cardinals may look at hanging onto him as the team's bonus corner when training camp is said and done. An injury to Jenkins severely hurt his chances of making the final roster, and if Brooks or Jackson misses extended time, perhaps Prater could slide into the mix for one of Arizona's last few roster spots.
Williams' name continued to catch our eye as the first two weeks of training camp practices rolled along, and though he's played against an inexperienced second team offensive line for Arizona, he has a chance to back up his performances in what should be extensive playing time against Oakland. Williams played a small amount for Arizona last season after being signed from the practice squad, and this year, he hopes to make the active roster from the outset of the year. With a handful of defensive linemen out, Williams and Bryant could be in an open competition on Friday that helps determine who has a leg up in the battle for the Cardinals' last spot on the defensive line depth chart. As for Pierre, Arians said he may not play, but he needs to make an impact this week if he hopes to stick around late into camp.
Out: Alani Fua
In: Donald Butler
Time may be running out for the San Diego Chargers' castoff signed late in July by Keim. Butler hasn't moved up from the third team defense, and backup linebacker Gabe Martin has done his best to hold on to the second team inside linebacker spot behind Kevin Minter. Chris Clemons is still ahead of Butler on the depth chart at the Money linebacker position where Deone Bucannon starts, so perhaps Butler can make his case if he slides over to the SAM backer position and proves his versatility with Fua on the bench. Things aren't looking up for Butler right now, but all of that can change with a strong showing in preseason contests because he does have a longer, more meaningful on-field resume for the Cardinals to judge than Clemons and Martin.