In last week’s preseason game, the Cardinals accomplished what they had to accomplish.
Backup quarterback Colt McCoy showed why he’s Kyler Murray’s main backup as he moved the ball downfield with precision and passing precision. 2020 seventh-round pick Eno Benjamin made an impact as both a kickoff returner and a running back. All of the Cardinals’ best rookies made their presence felt in the preseason victory.
Cardinals starters will be put to the test against the reigning AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs, who are expected to keep their front-row players in the game for most of the first half.
Chiefs HC Andy Reid on how much he’ll play with his starters Friday night in Arizona against the Cardinals in a game on ESPN: “We’ll go halfway somewhere with the starters, and then the two and all three will take the second half. “
– Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 18, 2021
Here are six Cardinals players to watch as they face the Chiefs on Friday, August 20 at 8 p.m. ET.
# 1 Kyler Murray – Quarterback
Murray is expected to play in Friday’s preseason matchup against the Chiefs. It’s unclear if DeAndre Hopkins or AJ Green will be available, but this is the Cardinals’ chance to see how quickly this offense can start rolling out the door on the drive or two Murray will play.
The Cardinals started slow in too many games last year, especially in losses to the Panthers and Seahawks. Considering that he was in street clothes in the first preseason game last week despite reports that he would play, there is a chance that he will not be dressed tomorrow as well.
Let’s see how much Murray has progressed entering his third year with the Cardinals.
# 85 Rondale Moore – Wide Receiver
Sweeps, options, tricks. Whatever, Rondale Moore was beyond amazing in her Cardinals debut. He finished with five touches for 39 yards of scrimmage in his first preseason game. Although his stats weren’t spectacular, his impact was immediately felt. Moore looks like the perfect player to play in the slot position on Kliff Kingsbury’s offense as a fast and dynamic wide receiver capable of executing the quick bubble screen plays the Cardinals love to score.
He’s a much better fit for the job than Cardinals legend Larry Fitzgerald, who has yet to announce his plans for the 2021 season. Too many gains in short yards or tackles to lose due to Fitzgerald’s lack of speed and rapid acceleration. It’s just the preseason, so it’s probably best to cut down on the hype and value invested in these performances. However, it does give coaches and fans an idea of the type of player they can become in a consistent role.
Moore will be an important part of the Cardinals offense this season. He brings that game-changing potential that should also be on full display against the Chiefs.
# 38 Greg Dortch – Wide Receiver
In addition to Dortch making that incredible 20-yard catch in preseason, he has also excelled during training camp since signing with the Cardinals on Aug. 3. The small receiver (5’7 ” 175 pounds) from Wake Forest has worked as a practice squad with the Falcons, Jets, Panthers and Rams. In his two regular-season games with the Rams in 2019, he returned five kickoffs for 119 yards and four punts for 28 yards.
The Cardinals have options for the returner positions in Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore, but Kingsbury will want them to maximize efficiency on offense and stay healthy by avoiding special teams. Tyrann Mathieu’s anterior cruciate ligament tear in 2013 on a punt comeback comes to mind. Andy Isabella is currently listed as the top-line kick returner, but having missed significant practice time due to COVID and disappointing career performances, he is not guaranteed a spot on the list.
This means that Dortch has a legitimate shot at the Cardinals’ 53-man roster if he can continue to impress during the preseason as a receiver. Eno Benjamin could take the job of kicking back from Isabella.
# 76 Margus Hunt – Defensive Tackle
Hunt was easily the Cardinals’ best defensive lineman in last week’s win over the Cowboys in a group that performed lackluster overall with all their depth of the main disabled list inactive. He had a very solid game, from the penetration of the passing run to his impact on the defense against the run. Pro Football Focus gave him a passing grade of 78.3, which was the best on the team.
2019 seventh-round pick Michael Dogbe is the favorite to land seventh on the defensive line on the list, but Hunt is certainly not far behind. If he has another quality performance as a pass rusher, Hunt could very well make the 53-man roster after being hired just a week ago as a camp corps.
This could turn into a battle of position between Michael Dogbe and Margus Hunt.
# 9 Isaiah Simmons – Inner Linebacker
If all goes according to plan with the Chiefs playing their starters in the first half, Simmons will be tasked with covering arguably the best tight end in the NFL in Travis Kelce with the best quarterback pitching to him in Patrick Mahomes. The Cardinals selected No. 8 Simmons overall in 2020 to solve their coverage problems against tight ends. His coverage prowess and elite athleticism is what made him such a coveted draft prospect.
The inside linebacker duo of Simmons and Zaven Collins played exceptionally well in their preseason debuts. Both will be tested on Friday when they take on the best offense in the NFL. You might even get a chance to cover one of your best friends from college on the Chiefs’ fifth-round pick, Cornell Powell.
Simmons will have to work on his tackle, but he will have plenty of time to go over that this preseason.
# 20 Marco Wilson – Cornerback
Rookie cornerback Marco Wilson made a stellar debut against the Cowboys, forcing three incomplete passes on six goals, including a near-interception. He earned the second best overall rating (83.7) on defense with the highest rating (84.5) on coverage. He lined up wide and in the groove as a versatile defensive running back who should have plenty of playing time this season on defense with the Cardinals.
Wilson was one of the most athletic cornerbacks in this year’s draft, running 4.35 40, jumping 43.5 ”vertically and doing 26 reps on the bench. All of that was on display in the 35 snapshots he played last week. Like Simmons, his covering skills will be put to the test to a great extent, especially if he sees playing time against the Chiefs’ first offense.
This list can go on forever and there will be plenty of other Cardinals to watch on Friday night. I know Arizonans love Eno Benjamin as a former Arizona State Sun Demon and will want to see if he can replicate his success in the second game. Sixth round pick Tay Gowan has already become a fan favorite by being a highly interactive player on social media. He allowed only one catch on six targets last week.
This game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs will be fun.