Friday, August 10, 2012
Three things: Cardinals-Chiefs
By Mike Sando
Three things to watch for Friday in the Arizona Cardinals' preseason road game against the Kansas City Chiefs at 8 p.m. ET:
1. QB competition. John Skelton gets the start after coming off the bench to lead a 14-play, 90-yard drive to the Cardinals' lone touchdown against New Orleans in the Hall of Fame game Sunday. Skelton appeared relaxed and comfortable with the offense during that game. He kept his eyes downfield while under pressure (even while getting hit) and generally seemed unperturbed. Skelton's competition for the starting job, Kevin Kolb, faced greater pressure and appeared a little more harried before leaving with an injury. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has said he expects Kolb to play against the Chiefs. His public comments to that effect put pressure on Kolb to play through whatever pain he's experiencing. In that context, it's important for Kolb to play and improve upon his brief showing against the Saints. A repeat of Sunday night would put Skelton in the lead.
2. Stewart Bradley's progress. The Cardinals didn't get much from Bradley last season after signing him to a five-year, $30 million deal in free agency. As a result, they leveraged a pay cut from the 28-year-old inside linebacker this offseason. Bradley has responded favorably. Against New Orleans, he appeared more comfortable in Arizona's 3-4 scheme. Bradley played freely and aggressively, a continuation of progress made late last season. Now, with incumbent starter Paris Lenon recovering from an ankle injury, Bradley should get an extended opportunity against the Chiefs.
3. Pass protection. This has been a problem area for years in Arizona. Kolb was under siege during the Hall of Fame game. The right side of the offensive line has new faces since this time last season. Brandon Keith, the starter a year ago, is out of the league. Former right guards Rex Hadnot and Deuce Lutui are gone. Jeremy Bridges and rookie Bobby Massie are the right tackles. Free-agent addition Adam Snyder is at right guard. Just about any line needs time and reps to round into form. This game gives Arizona another chance to work toward that end. Left tackle Levi Brown faces a potentially tough matchup against Chiefs pass-rusher Tamba Hali, who has 26.5 sacks over the past two regular seasons. Hali has not been a preseason phenom. He has three sacks in six career preseasons.