Cardinals Focused for First Test

It seems like just yesterday that the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Time has flown by and now another season is rapidly approaching. The preseason kicks off for the Cardinals this Thursday. Are they ready? Who are the players to watch on Thursday? Find out this and more in this exclusive.

The preseason marks the beginning of another Cardinals campaign. The players have been preparing during the off-season and even though the outcome may not matter, jobs are still on the line. The most important aspects of preseason football are to determine the depth chart, get a feel for how the team has improved and escape with minimal injuries.

Entering his second season as head coach, Ken Whisenhunt is well aware that this team needs to show improvement immediately. Coach Whisenhunt has been pleased with the progress of late and his confidence is high. Relinquishing offensive play calling duties has not been an easy task, but it will allow him to focus on different aspects of the game. That should significantly help the Cardinals defense and special teams.

It will be hard to get a feel for the progress of the team as a whole on Thursday. Most likely the starters will only play a series or two while the rest of the game is left to the bottom of the depth chart as they battle for a roster spot. While this may not sound thrilling, it actually should be exciting to view. The Cardinals have a few special players lurking in the shadows, waiting for a chance to play. Thursday provides exactly that and it should be interesting to see how they respond.

A few offensive notables that will be worth watching on Thursday are running back Tim Hightower, wide receiver Early Doucet, and tight end Ben Patrick. All should see action and each is fighting to climb the depth chart. Hightower single handedly showed Marcel Shipp the door while Doucet has been pushing Steve Breaston every step of the way. Furthermore, Patrick has forced the Cardinals to design dual tight end sets in order to get him on the field.

QB Matt Leinart has been solid in camp and seems to have a firm grasp as the starter. Nevertheless, coach Whisenhunt could also use veteran QB Kurt Warner. Practice has seen both players running the first team and as the battle rages on throughout the preseason each quarterback will be kept on edge.

The revamped defense will finally get a chance to show their stuff on Thursday. Keep an eye on FS Antrel Rolle, as his transition is key to the development of the Cardinals defense. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will also be active on the field throughout the game. His unique skills make him a treat to watch. If he gets out there against the second or third string quarterbacks, expect an interception and possibly a return for a touchdown.

The first of four "tests" commence Thursday against the New Orleans Saints. Now is the time to apply all the knowledge gained from training camp. If the Cardinals are going to ace the exam they need to show a capable running game and solid pass defense. It is no secret that the Cardinals can throw, but that alone won't bring Arizona to the playoffs. In order to get the season started properly the Cardinals must show their abilities as a multi-dimensional team.

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