It’s not too often that a team plays another team from another conference three times in a year, but that is that the Arizona Cardinals will do on Saturday as they host the San Diego Chargers. The two teams will meet for the third time in the past year, with back-to-back games against each other in 2014.
For both teams this game will allow the first team offense and defense to play the first quarter. This will be a test for rookies and new players on both teams to see their development beyond just a couple of snaps.
Aug 15, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) celebrates with quarterback Carson Palmer (3) and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) after a 2 yard touchdown during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs in a preseason NFL football game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The extended playing time would allow the Cardinals to see Carson Palmer in the game for more than just the one series that he played in last Saturday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. In the game Palmer was 4-for-4 with 77 yards, seeming like he never missed a beat after coming back from a torn ACL. Since last week’s game against the Chiefs the Cardinals are down two starters on the offensive line. Bradley Sowell will replace Bobby Massie, as the team prepares for Massie’s suspension starting in Week One, and Ted Larsen will take over for Mike Iupati, who is out one to two months with a knee injury.
It has been a rough week for Arizona though, as both Iupati and defensive lineman Corey Peters went down with injuries. For Peters his injury will cost him the whole season with a torn Achilles tendon. The Cardinals fourth round pick, Rodney Gunter will be taking over for Peters. Gunter has had a phenomenal training camp so far, and had a sack for a safety in the game against the Chiefs.
Aug 13, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) celebrates after a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in a preseason NFL football game at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
San Diego had not major injuries coming out of last week’s game, but the starters will try to improve on last week’s win against the Cowboys. The Chargers wanted rookie running back Melvin Gordon to get more reps this weekend after only having six carries for 11 yards in last week’s win, but he is not expected to play in the game due to a minor ankle injury. This will be an opportunity for more wide receivers to get reps. Both Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones will be looking for their first receptions as Chargers.
A key to the game for San Diego is to protect Philip Rivers, as he was pulled after just nine snaps in last year’s second exhibition game against the Seattle Seahawks. It goes for the Cardinals as well, as Palmer needs to stay upright for the Cardinals to succeed on offense.
In order for the Cardinals to keep Palmer upright they will need Ted Larsen, Bradley Sowell and the offensive line to step up and for the running backs to get more yards per carry. Andre Ellington had a great game against the Chiefs and the team wants him to continue that success this weekend. The Cardinals signed long time Titan, Chris Johnson this week and are hopeful he can play after leaving practice with his leg wrapped on Thursday.
This game will mark the final game at University of Phoenix Stadium until the Cardinals’ Week One matchup against the New Orleans Saints.