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What to watch for in Cards' preseason opener

Cardinals open preseason in Green Bay with much evaluating to do, many new faces.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – It’s hard to generate much emotion over a preseason game, but there will be some motivating factors for the Cardinals when they open the preseason at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Friday.

“It’s been a long, long time since we left the field in San Francisco,” said receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whose team completed a 5-11 season with a 27-13 loss to the 49ers on Dec. 30. “This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and obviously, we fell short of expectations last year. This is the first time we get to go out and put something good on tape.”

Coach Bruce Arians only expects the starters to play about 15 plays -- or “not very far into the second quarter” -- because “we’ve got too many young guys to evaluate,” but Fitzgerald insists plenty can be culled from that short stint.

“This is an intricate offense,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are expected of you on every single snap, from blocking to adjustments and route recognition. Coach Arians puts a lot of responsibility on his players, and in 15 plays, you can be exposed out there.”

Quarterback Carson Palmer said he’d just like to see the offense execute.

Here are some other things to watch for, most of them highlighted by Arians in his media availability on Wednesday.

Offensive tackle play: Arians wants to see how starters Levi Brown and Eric Winston and backups Nate Potter and Bobby Massie react under the bright lights and against the Packers, who finished fourth in the league last season with 47 sacks.

Cornerback play: Arians noted that the Cards are deep, with plenty of competition at the spot opposite Patrick Peterson and at nickelback. Tyrann Mathieu figures to get time at the latter, and Jerraud Powers appears to have locked down the other starting spot, but Antoine Cason, Javier Arenas and Justin Bethel are also in the mix.

Run offense/run defense: Arians expects a pass-happy game befitting the preseason, but he still wants to know how well the Cards can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

The defensive line’s versatility: Arians said he could end up going with just a five-man rotation because the players are so versatile. With versatile linebackers as well, the Cards could show a wide variety of looks this season. 

The battle for the fourth receiver spot: Kerry Taylor (slight hamstring), Robert Gill, Jaron Brown, Jarett Dillard and Charles Hawkins are all possibilities.

Health: “The most important thing in preseason is to keep your guys healthy and make sure we have our full arsenal for Week 1,” Fitzgerald said.

The bottom of the roster: Arians noted that there are plenty of jobs open, and many of the candidates will be on display in the fourth quarter. At the same time, winning those competitions doesn’t ensure making the team. 

"We’ll never stop churning the bottom 15,” Arians said. “There’s always someone out there that’s a diamond in the rough, and we want to find them."

Offensive and defensive identities: There’s been a lot of talk about the vertical passing game and the attacking defense. Time to put those ideas in motion.

“It’s that time of the year where the season is coming up on us,” running back Rashard Mendenhall said. “It’s the start of us kind of putting our identity together."