GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) A year ago, the Arizona Cardinals were coming off an awful season with a new coach and a roster of considerable talent.
That sounds a lot like the Houston Texans this year.
When the two teams meet in their preseason opener Saturday night, Arizona is looking to build on a 10-6 season and Houston will be looking to erase the ugly memory of last year’s 2-14 debacle and turn things around under new coach Bill O’Brien.
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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians expects quarterback Carson Palmer and the rest of the starters to go about 15 plays before giving way to backups. Texas will have Ryan Fitzpatrick at starting quarterback, but won’t have several of their top players.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Arian Foster and cornerback Johnathan Joseph will sit this one out while nursing minor injuries.
The NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Jadaveon Clowney, missed practice time this week with an undisclosed injury. He says he will play Saturday, but O’Brien has not confirmed that.
O’Brien said playing time for everyone would be dictated by how the game unfolds.
”You go into it wanting to make sure that your substitutions are correct, your play calling is smooth, and substitutions on special teams are smooth,” he said. ”You want the operation off the game to go well. If it’s not, you’ve got to determine that as a head coach and determine how much longer certain guys need to be in there.”
A year ago, Palmer was in the early stages of understanding Arians’ intricate offense.
Now, he’s comfortable with it, entering a second season with wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd his primary targets and dynamic second-year running back Andre Ellington bringing a big-play threat carrying the ball and catching it.
Palmer will operate behind a revamped offensive line, and while pass protection will be important, he hopes he gets a few bone-jarring hits as well.
”I actually always hope to get knocked down a bunch of times during the preseason,” Palmer said, ”just because if you don’t you get to Week 1, 2, 3 of the regular season, if your body isn’t used to being that kind of sore just because it’s so rare it only happens five months a year, that soreness kind of lingers on for a little bit longer. So I kind of like to get that soreness out of the way before the regular season starts.”
After Fitzpatrick, the Texans will give Case Keenum and fourth-round draft pick Tom Savage a look in their competition for the backup role. Keenum was 0-8 as a starter last season.
”I think these guys have put a lot of time in and they’ve worked extremely hard to learn our system,” O’Brien said, ”and they’ve had their good moments and their bad moments on the field. I think Fitzy has really improved. He is very comfortable with the offense. We’re looking forward to how all three of these guys play in these games, starting with Arizona.”
Palmer’s backup is Drew Stanton, who hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2010, probably will play into the second half. Sixth-round draft pick Logan Thomas is expected to play the fourth quarter. Thomas is competing with Ryan Lindley for the third-string quarterback job. Lindley won’t play Saturday but will the following week, Arians said.
The strong-armed Thomas has had accuracy issues in practice.
Asked what he wants to see out of the rookie, Arians said, ”throwing it to the right guy, where his eyes belong, read the coverages, get it out of the hand and operate more efficiently than he has been in practice. He’s still missing too many wide-open guys.”
Arizona rookie wide receiver John Brown, the third-round draft pick so impressive in camp before being sidelined with a sore hamstring, was practicing again this week and is expected to play.
With center Lyle Sendein out with a calf injury, right guard Paul Fanaika is the only returning starter on the offensive line for Arizona on Saturday. Left guard Jonathan Cooper, the 2013 first-round pick who missed all of last season after breaking his leg in the preseason, has been bothered by a sore knee but is expected to start.
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