Cowboys-Cardinals Preseason Primer

Photo via ESPN.

On Friday, Aug. 13, the Cowboys will travel to Glendale, Arizona to face off against the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.

It will be the first preseason game for Arizona and the second for the Cowboys after last week’s loss to Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame game. Both teams will have lots to prove as the first round of roster cuts will happen before the following Tuesday.

Football fans will be looking for a variety of things when these teams clash, even if the outcome of the game is meaningless. For Cowboys fans, the biggest thing will be to see how well the defense performs. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, newly-acquired nose tackle Quinton Bohanna was in on 76% of the snaps last week and was a considerable reason the team allowed only 76 yards on the ground.

Cardinals fans won’t have the advantages of knowing some of the expectations like Cowboys fans do. The extra preseason game — along with national exposure through HBOs “Hard Knocks” — has allowed ‘Boys fans to get an extra look at the team.

Last season, Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury chose to roll out a vanilla offense in preseason that slowed the progression of key players in his scheme, a decision that may have led to the Cardinals getting off to a rocky start. With the news that Kyler Murray will start, chances are good that Cardinals fans will get a better look at the type of offense they can expect in September than they did last season.

Garret Gilbert will get the start for the Cowboys under center for the second game in a row. He showed flashes last week in his brief outing, but he should be featured more against the Cardinals in preparation for the regular season. The biggest QB question — outside of how Dak Prescott’s shoulder is healing — will be who is going to end up at QB3. Both Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci took snaps last week, with DiNucci handling the second half of the game. Neither QB was particularly successful; however, DiNucci particularly looked lost at times.

The kicking game will be either a highlight or a low-light for both teams. Last week, the Cowboys brought in punter Hunter Niswander to place kick for Greg Zuerlein who is rehabbing from off-season back surgery. Niswander made one of three field goals last week, a stat made only more depressing by the fact that he accounted for all of the team’s points in the game.

The Cardinals are in a similar situation with kicker Matt Prater, an off-season acquisition from the Denver Broncos. Prater holds the NFL records for longest field goal and most field goals of 50+ yards, but saw his long-distance accuracy drop off last season. Perhaps the change of scenery is all that it will take to get the 36-year-old kicker back into shape.

One really bright spot for Cowboys fans last week was the play of rookie Micah Parsons, the Cowboys first-round pick in 2021. Parsons was a disruptive force on the outside and made an athletic diving recovery of a first-quarter fumble. So far in the preseason and throughout camp, it appears the Cowboys have done a great job of shoring up their run defense after a dismal 2020 season.

On defense, reports from camp indicate that 22-year-old rookie middle linebacker Zaven Collins will get the start for the Cardinals and is expected to lead the defense in the regular season. How he handles the duties of directing the defense against Dallas will give fans a good idea of what the team will look like come Week 1.

Fans of both teams are looking for one thing in particular -touchdowns. A mid-season adjustment saw the offense jump from 25th of 32 teams up to 13th in total points and points per game. The Cowboys — who failed to find the endzone last week — ended the season 17th of 32 teams with a total of 24.7 points per game.

Kickoff will be at 7:00pm local time.

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