As the Arizona Cardinals prepare to play their first football of 2014 outside, there are five players worth paying attention in the second preseason game, Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
Walt Powell, WR – With Ted Ginn (knee) and Michael Floyd (groin) game-time decisions, Powell will likely get more snaps than expected, meaning another long look from coaches. He has improved in the past couple weeks as his understanding of the offense has caught up to his foot speed, and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has noticed. Powell has also been hauling in a good amount of tough catches in practice, which has put him in a foot race with Jaron Brown for the fifth wide receiver spot. A good outing in Minnesota will help him prove he’s needed on the roster. Watch for a deep catch or two.
Robert Hughes, RB – Hughes will benefit from Arians’ new training camp philosophy of resting starters more than normal. He’s almost a lock for the fourth running back job because of his versatility. He can run in between the tackles, bounce outside and lineup as a fullback, and that’s in addition to his soft hands and good vision. Watch when Hughes is at fullback and how he can clear room for Andre Ellington or Stepfan Taylor.
Kenny Demens, LB – The likely starter at inside linebacker because of Kevin Minter’s pectoral injury, Demens has lost weight and is playing faster than ever. It has translated into big hits in practice. As Minter’s backup, Demens is one snap away from being a starter. He’ll have plenty of chances Saturday night to show he’s capable of playing with the first team, which could help quell any of Arians’ concerns about the depth at inside linebacker. Watch for a hit you can hear on TV.
Desmond Bishop, LB – He has played only four games in the last two years, but, if he’s active, Bishop will have his first opportunity of 2014 to show he’s healthy after back-to-back season-ending injuries. If he can show any glimpses of the 2011 Bishop, he could make this team to add much-needed depth at inside linebacker. There’s still a lot for the coaching staff to learn about where Bishop is physically, considering he was signed on Thursday, and that starts Saturday. Watch for Bishop to play a bit tentative but occasionally show a burst of talent.
Ted Larsen, C – The veteran offensive lineman played the entire first half last weekend against Houston. Expect for him to play almost as much Saturday with depth sparse at center since Lyle Sendlein went at the beginning of camp. Larsen’s exchanges with Carson Palmer have been smooth, and he didn’t seem to have any issues with Drew Stanton. Larsen will likely be the Cardinals’ backup center during the season if Sendlein goes down so the more reps he gets during the preseason the easier it’ll be for him to play in a pinch during the regular season. Watch for how Larsen and Stanton work together since they don’t spend much time in practice.