For most teams, the fourth preseason game holds little significance. Coaches have decided on nearly all of the roster spots and see the finale as a final tune-up before the regular season. However, in the Cardinals’ case, players on the trading block and serious competition is taking place at several positions. This finale preseason contest holds more meaning than most.
The Block and the Bubble: Most of Arizona’s first teamers are not expected to play much Thursday night, meaning those still fighting for roster spots will see extended playing time. This will provide ample opportunity to not only make the coaches take a second look at their position with the Cardinals, but pad their highlight reel for future employers. In addition, some players, including guard Reggie Wells and QB Matt Leinart, are being shopped and this game gives other teams the chance to evaluate them.
Rookie Quarterbacks: With Matt Leinart expected to be traded or released by this weekend, coach Ken Whisenhunt will want to see improved play by his rookie quarterbacks, John Skelton and Max Hall. Both have shown flashes of excellence in preseason games, but it’s unlikely the coaching staff wants two rookies backing up Derek Anderson. The better player in this game could be the one on the active roster when the season starts.
Position Battles: A few of the starters have yet to be decided on, including at cornerback and nose tackle. Trumaine McBride and Greg Toler will continue their preseason-long battle to start opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Toler currently has the edge and will start, but McBride should expect to see more snaps and be playing with something to prove. Gabe Watson, Bryan Robinson and Dan Williams have all impressed during the preseason, but the Cardinals are unlikely to keep three nose tackles. Middle linebacker is also not set in stone as rookie Daryl Washington has the advantage, but Monty Beisel and Pago Togafau are still in the running.
Playing Against Lesser Competition: Most of the Redskins starters and veterans are not expected to play. While Arizona’s starters will only play a series or two, they should still be expected to play well against players struggling to make a roster. The final preseason game holds little meaning, but key players should still prove they are ready to begin the regular season.
No Injuries: The last thing any coach wants is for a potential contributor to go down in a “meaningless” game. Expect Big Red players and coaches to be cautious about moves and decisions made in Thursday’s game.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52
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