GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Cowboys are the perfect cure for the training camp blues.
Three weeks into camp, most of the Cardinals have admitted they are tired of facing each other every day, twice a day, so games are a welcome change of pace. But emotions ramp up another notch when the opponent is wearing silver helmets with blue stars.
“It’s the Cowboys,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “That always means something.”
In this case, there is practical meaning on top of the emotion. Dallas brings a power running game — often led by left tackle Tyron Smith and left guard Ronald Leary, who pave the way for running back DeMarco Murray — which is something coach Bruce Arians wants his defense to see.
But perhaps the greater challenge is the 4-3 defensive alignment. The Cowboys play a coverage version of the Tampa 2, a look that Cardinals quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton haven’t seen thus far in practice or the preseason.
The Cowboys also boast an aggressive front with pass-rush specialist DeMarcus Ware, who has a whopping 111 sacks in his eight NFL seasons.
“I probably pass rush when I’m coming out of the bathroom stall,” Ware told reporters recently at Cowboys training camp. “I can’t get enough of it.”
That is a challenge Arians is anxious for his team to face — and possibly exploit.
“They’re always looking at the quarterback,” Arians said Thursday. “You can do certain things with them if you know about it.”
Teams don’t gameplan much in the preseason, and Arians said earlier this week that only one day would be spent truly preparing for the Cowboys. There’s also the reality that the starters are only likely to see about 20 snaps in this game, but there is still worth to be found in that limited work.
“We’re probably going to see a lot more blitzes than we did last week. That’s just the nature of the preseason,” left tackle Levi Brown said. “Green Bay is more of a two-gap (technique). These guys are more gap penetrators, so it changes the way you have to execute your technique.”
Brown also knows that Ware will often be lined up opposite him.
“He’s obviously one of the best in the business,” Brown said. “I’ve got to be ready to go.”
One of the big questions outsiders have for the Cardinals is whether they’ll be able to protect their quarterbacks this season. Saturday’s performance won’t be definitive proof one way or the other, but it’ll still be a good barometer of the unit’s progress and a good piece of film to use for further tweaking.
“We did a decent job protecting the quarterback last week against Green Bay, but this is going to be a bigger challenge, because I’m sure Dallas is going to bring a more up-the-field type of pressure form the defensive linemen,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “It will be interesting to see how we handle any kind of blitzes they throw at us. Very interesting.”