The Arizona Cardinals won their preseason opener vs. the Chargers last week, but the brief performances from their starters were met with mixed reviews. Their new starting quarterback was outstanding. The defense? Not so much.
What can fans expect when the Cardinals play their second preseason game of 2019? Here are three important things to watch when the Cards take on the Oakland Raiders at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on Thursday night.
1. Will we see more Kyler?
Kyler Murray was outstanding during the one and only series he played in the Cards' first preseason game, completing 6 of 7 passes for 44 yards while showing a glimpse of his speed and scrambling ability. But fans are hoping to see more of the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's game.
They will probably get their wish, as coach Kliff Kingsbury indicated Murray should see more action vs. the Raiders. Fans are hoping for more of the same from the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and should have another weapon available Thursday night. Speaking of which...
2. What about those second-round picks?
Both of the Cardinals' 2019 second-round selections -- wide receiver Andy Isabella and cornerback Byron Murphy -- missed Arizona's preseason opener due to injury. But both men are expected to make their NFL debuts when the Cardinals host the Raiders.
Isabella is known for his speed, so it will be interesting to see if Murray has a chance to make a deep throw to the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder. And Murphy, who starred at Saguaro High School, figures to be an integral part of the Cardinals' secondary, especially in the first six games of the regular season, which perennial Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson will miss due to suspension. Health permitting, all eyes will be on both guys vs. the Raiders.
3. Will the first-team defense look better?
The Cardinals' starting defensive unit was carved up like a roast in their preseason opener, allowing two long drives and a touchdown against the Chargers. (The Cards were bailed out on one of those drives on a forced fumble and recovery by linebacker Jordan Hicks near the goal line.) Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is undoubtedly looking to see more from that unit Thursday night.
Statistically, the Cardinals' defense took a collective nose dive last year after being a dominant unit for the previous several years. It would certainly be reassuring to see the first-team unit perform better in Game 2 -- especially up front, an area in which the Cardinals are suddenly lacking depth after starting defensive end Darius Philon was released following his arrest last week.