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Five Things to Ponder Heading into Preseason Week 1

On Thursday, the Kevin Kolb era begins in the desert. Before we get to that point, there are some last minute things we should be thinking of when watching the game:

1.  What type of play will Cardinals fans and front office see out of newly anointed starter Kevin Kolb? Will we see the inconsistent play he displayed in Philadelphia, going 3-4 as an NFL starter with 11 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions?

Since the trade for Kolb, fans and the organization alike have placed the load of the entire franchise on his shoulders, and we have not seen what he is capable of. In training camp, like any other player, he has had his ups and downs, but he is at the disadvantage of having to learn an entirely new offense in a few short weeks before the season officially begins.

Darren Urban in azcardinals.com is reporting that Kolb will get more action than a normal starter in the first preseason game, furthering the obvious sentiment that with the addition of Kolb, the quarterback competition is over.

Kolb is the unquestioned starter, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts to his first game action in a new system.

2. Where will the pass rush come from?

One area the Cardinals did not pursue as strongly in free agency was a pass rush specialist. That may signify that the team is satisfied with aging Joey Porter and Clark Haggans as outside ‘backers, but looking at their roster, they could have used an upgrade at the position. In 2010, the entire team had 33 sacks, tying for 18th in the NFL.

While their pass rush is not elite, I would look for Darnell Dockett (obviously) and a relative unknown, Inside Linebacker O’Brien Schoefield to bring the heat and solidify a spot in what will almost certainly be a revolving door.

As evidence of the logjam at the linebacker position, newly acquired linebacker and former Eagle Stewart Bradley is second on the preliminary depth chart.

3. Who’s going to emerge as a viable #2 receiver in the Cardinals offense?

Looking at the preliminary depth chart, the coaching staff has listed Andre Roberts as the compliment to Larry Fitzgerald in the Cardinals passing attack. Because the Cards use so many different offensive packages as far as receivers go, I would not look to deeply into this depth chart.

Newly resigned receiver Early Doucet has changed his number from 80 to 85 and is looking for a fresh start, having not lived up to expectations since being drafted out of LSU in 2007. Doucet and Roberts have been battling all camp for that #2 spot, and as of now Roberts seems to have had the better showing.

Don’t count out Doucet though, he has been relatively injury free this camp, different from years past. If he can stay healthy, that’s a big IF, then the Cardinals most intriguing position battle will only get more interesting.

4. How much of the gameplan will the coaching staff reveal in the preseason?

Thanks to the lockout and shortened offseason, coaching staffs around the League have been unable to install their entire playbook on either side of the ball.

It will be interesting to see if the coaches take the preseason approach of showing everything they have been working on in camp, or if they take the more conservative route, using plays and schemes they know are bland enough to lull opposing coordinators to sleep.

Obviously, you want to be able to use enough of the playbook so that the players and coaches get used to calling plays they for certain are going to call during the season. At the same time, revealing too much of Coach Whisenhunt’s plans and schemes has the potential to backfire if teams figure out the Cardinals tendencies before the real games even start.

5. How will all the new faces on the offensive line mesh?

Colledge anchored the O-Line for Green Bay, can he do the same in Arizona?

In one of the most aggressive free agency periods in Arizona Cardinals history, the Cardinals added tons of valuable weapons, some of the most important coming up front.

The Cardinals added some major beef to their offensive line thanks to Dayn Colledge (6’4″, 308 lbs.), formerly of the Green Bay Packers, Floyd “Porkchop” Womack (6’4″, 328 lbs.), and the surprise return of Deuce Letui (6’4″, 338 lbs.), who signed with the Bengals before failing his physical and trotting back to the desert.

Letui specifically, went from being a top starter in the franchise to backing up the new guys, and may have to switch positions to stay relevant. That, and lose some weight. When was the last time you heard someone say that the lineman battle in training camp was one of the more exciting competitions to watch? That’s exactly the situation unfolding before us in Flagstaff.

There are plenty of new faces along the line, but will they be able to come together as a unit and keep Kevin Kolb upright? The run blocking game could also use work, so the newly acquired size and athleticism (with the exception of Letui) is more than welcome, but only time can tell how well this hodgepodge of talent can function cohesively.

Thursday evening, the Cardinals will embark on another season long journey through the gauntlet that is the NFL season. This is the first time I’ve said “Thank God for the preseason”. The popping of the pads, the smell of the grass, and touchdowns that count for something are back.

No more anticipating or speculating, we finally get to see some football.


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