Sep 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu prior to the game against the Denver Broncos during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona Cardinals open the season this Sunday evening on NBC’s Sunday Night Football against the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. There are a lot of storylines going into this one.
Ever since the schedule came out in mid-April, Cardinals fans have had this game marked on the calendar. Knowing the Patriots would be on the schedule it was only a matter of when would they come to Arizona.
Unfortunately Cardinals fans will not get to see Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as he is suspended for the first four games of the season. Instead they will see Jimmy Garappolo under center.
Many Cardinals fans aren’t too terribly disappointed in that news. Still it would have been nice to see the Cardinals play the Patriots at their best.
For now though we take a look at the players that should make the biggest impact on the outcome for the Cardinals. The Cardinals have a lot of expectations going into the season and fans want those expectations to be set in motion right away.
Here are the three players that are likely to be the ones we are all talking about Monday morning. Forget preseason, it is time to lace them up for real.
Aug 28, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) carries the ball during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
The Cardinals were not very successful at many things in the preseason. One of the things that was a positive however was the running game.
Starting running back David Johnson has a lot of expectations placed on him. His ability to run with the ball and catch the ball as a receiver puts him a cut above most the rest of the backs in the league.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick likes what he sees in Johnson. However he doesn’t see him as talented as former running back Marshall Faulk. At this point he doesn’t need to be.
What the Cardinals need is a steady dose of Johnson out of the backfield to help create a balance that will open up the passing game. The Patriots defense is no pushover though.
If Johnson is going to carry the ball for over 100 yards, he will have earned every yard. I would look for the Cardinals to use him extensively in both the running and passing game.
Aug 12, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones (55) prior to the game against the Oakland Raiders during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t think it will come as too much of a shocker to fans that linebacker Chandler Jones will be pumped up for this one. The former Patriots pass rusher was traded to the Cardinals in the offseason.
For Jones, this is his first chance to prove to fans he was worth the price the Cardinals paid to get him. It just so happens to be against his former employer.
Jones doesn’t have to go out and get sacks on every play to make an impact. I expect him to garner a lot of double-teaming with his former mates knowing how he operates.
What he does is grab the attention, which in turn sets his teammates free to hunt down Garoppolo. Although Jones doesn’t need the sacks to make his presence felt, I suspect that he will get at least one sack and it will come at a very opportune time.
Aug 28, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws the ball during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Palmer is ready, eager to get off to a great start. With the way the 2015 season ended and the way the preseason unfolded, Palmer should come out with some good looking drives.
It may take a drive or two to get into the flow, however Palmer should be able to spread the ball around enough to keep the Patriots on their toes. Again, perfection is not what is being sought, although it would be nice.
What should happen though is Palmer coming out and completing about 17-20 passes for 250-275 yards. He will do enough to put the naysayers to sleep, at least for one week.
Palmer’s teammates and his fans are looking for him to show he is ready for the 2016 season and get down to the business of reaching the goal of winning the Super Bowl.