What to watch for as the Arizona Cardinals face Cincinnati Bengals in NFL preseason opener

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After about two weeks of pre-training camp and in-training camp drama, from a Kyler Murray contract clause removed to an arrest to COVID cases, the Arizona Cardinals have had their first relatively uneventful week of camp.

Now it's off to Cincinnati to play the preseason opener Friday night, the Cardinals' first opportunity to show in a game what they've worked on at State Farm Stadium in training camp.

Yes, it's just a preseason game that doesn't count, and the team's biggest names, including Murray, defensive end J.J. Watt, wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, safety Budda Baker and running back James Conner, aren't likely to play much if at all. But there are roster spots to be won, starting jobs on the line and a chance for the many NFL hopefuls in camp to if nothing else, get some game tape of themselves doing things the Cardinals or any other NFL coaching staff might find roster-worthy.

"This is a culmination of a lot of hard work from a lot of these young guys to get out there and show what they can do," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "So I really enjoy the preseason games and I'd say it's more evaluation than anything, and then we want to see how they take what they got right and what they got wrong and move forward into Game 2."

With the fairly lengthy list of players being limited or not taking part in camp practices due to either injuries, illness or staff decisions to be brought along slowly, an opportunity has opened up for others to get more valuable snaps in team drills on both sides of the ball. That's one point Kingsbury has made with the players who aren't guaranteed a roster spot in September.

"This is an opportunity to show what you can do, and at this point in camp, they start looking at depth charts and 'Hey, I may not make it because there's five guys,' whatever," Kingsbury said. "And we just reiterate preseason is a job interview for 32 teams. So if your attitude is, hey, I'm not going to be here ... then you're wrong because the league doesn't work that way and you've got a chance to show everybody what you can do."

Here are a few players to watch on Friday night in Ohio:

Aug 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley (19) during training camp at State Farm Stadium.
Aug 9, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley (19) during training camp at State Farm Stadium.

QB Trace McSorley

McSorley gets the start against the Bengals with Murray and backup Colt McCoy not expected to play. He's looked confident and sharp running the No. 1 offense in practice, which he did a lot over the past week, and he and Jarrett Guarantano will play extensively as they battle for the Cardinals' third quarterback spot.

"A lot of guys in that third quarterback position don't get many reps, so being in this position that I've been in so far this training camp has been awesome," McSorley said. "Especially now being able to operate in the offense and not just sitting in the meetings but being able to go out on the field and running it and practicing, getting the feel for it has been great."

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LB Zaven Collins

Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Zaven Collins (25) runs a drill during training camp at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on July 27, 2022.
Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Zaven Collins (25) runs a drill during training camp at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on July 27, 2022.

Collins is aiming for a starting spot at inside linebacker, as it's no guarantee that he'll have one when the regular season starts. So preseason games could be important to see where his development as a player currently stands.

CB Marco Wilson

Wilson started a lot of games last season as a rookie and is the incumbent to remain as such. But Kingsbury wants Wilson to take command of that starting spot. It's critical, because addressing the cornerback position is a hot topic around the Cardinals.

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WRs Greg Dortch, Andy Isabella, Andre Baccellia

Dortch has made a big impression in camp and could easily be considered the player who has stood out the most on offense, if not the whole team. Expect the quarterbacks to look his way a number of times. Isabella is highly motivated to continue with what has been a good camp for him and fight to keep his place on the Cardinals. Baccellia, in his second camp with Arizona, has quietly been solid and earned reps with the No. 1 offense in team drills.

Three rookie running backs

Aug 8, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.;  Arizona Cardinals running back Ronnie Rivers (37) performs a drill during training camp at State Farm Stadium.
Aug 8, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, U.S.; Arizona Cardinals running back Ronnie Rivers (37) performs a drill during training camp at State Farm Stadium.

Kingsbury mentioned sixth-round draft pick Keaontay Ingram as one of the players who stood out in the team's Red & White scrimmage last weekend. Undrafted rookies Ronnie Rivers and T.J. Pledger haven't hurt their chances. "Both very productive in college and have picked up the system really quickly," Kingsbury said. "They don't make many mistakes. That's the best thing I can say about those two, is when they're asked to do a job, they get it done. Whether it's catch, protect, run the football, and we've really been pleased with how they've performed so far."

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CBs Antonio Hamilton, Christian Matthew

June 15, 2022; Tempe, Arizona; USA; Cardinals cornerback Christian Matthew (35) warms up during camp at the Tempe Training facility.
June 15, 2022; Tempe, Arizona; USA; Cardinals cornerback Christian Matthew (35) warms up during camp at the Tempe Training facility.

As the Cardinals keep trying to develop cornerbacks in camp and consider adding a veteran in free agency, Hamilton and Matthew, a rookie, are two DBs who look to build on their training camp performances.

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LB Victor Dimukeje

Dimukeje, in his second season, will get plenty of looks on Friday as the Cardinals try to find an outside linebacker to contribute more on defense and help offset the departure of sack master Chandler Jones.

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Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM. 

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: What to watch in Arizona Cardinals-Cincinnati Bengals preseason opener