Friday, August 9, 2013
Three things to watch: Cardinals-Packers
By Mike Sando
Three things to watch for Friday night in the Arizona Cardinals' 2013 exhibition opener against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field (8 p.m. ET):
1. Palmer's debut. Carson Palmer's addition via trade stands as the most significant offseason move in the NFC West. It's not that Palmer was the best player acquired this offseason. Rather, he stands to make the greatest impact through the nature of his position and because the Cardinals have been so bad at quarterback recently. Arizona posted by far the lowest Total QBR score (26.8) and NFL passer rating (65.7) over the past three seasons. So, while we're not going to obsess over how Palmer looks in his Cardinals debut, some level of competency would be reassuring for Arizona. How he connects with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Rob Housler is of particular interest.
2. Mathieu and the DBs. The Cardinals are building their secondary around Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and 2013 third-round choice Tyrann Mathieu, who figures to play a safety/corner role this season. Peterson has already demonstrated extreme playmaking ability. The Cardinals think Mathieu can also make impact plays with flair. Mathieu's debut carries considerable interest as he starts fresh following a tumultuous run at LSU. Will he stand out right away? Peterson, meanwhile, has been getting reps at wide receiver. It's unclear whether the team will try him in that capacity against Green Bay.
3. Running back picture. Coach Bruce Arians is betting on Rashard Mendenhall reemerging as an every-down back. Mendenhall is scheduled to start against the Packers, and he's a heavy favorite to be the starter this season. Backups Ryan Williams and Andre Ellington are injured and not expected to play. That could lead to additional playing time for Alfonso Smith and rookie Stepfan Taylor. Can one or both of them allay depth concerns at the position? The Cardinals need to be healthier across the board this season, but particularly at halfback, where the team used four starters last season (Beanie Wells 7, LaRod Stephens-Howling 5, Williams 3 and William Powell 1).