The Cardinals starters -- like quarterback Kevin Kolb -- could play deep into the game Friday.
The look on Levi Brown's face said it all.
The mammoth offensive tackle had just sauntered off the upper practice field in Flagstaff Wednesday afternoon, two days before the Cardinals' third preseason game, and Brown wasn't ready to sugar coat what everybody already knew. The first two games hadn't lived up to anybody's expectations, and with the Oakland Raiders coming to University of Phoenix Stadium Friday night, things were about to change.
All week the talk around training camp had centered around coach Ken Whisenhunt's proclamation that he wouldn't be adhering to the unwritten rule of thumb for preseason playing time: Play the starters a minimum of time, especially with two games left to play afterward.
Instead, Whisenhunt said earlier in the week, the first team will play as long as it needs until it shows improvement as a unit.
If that meant all game, so be it.
"Have you seen the first two games?" Brown said with his eyebrows arching upward. "We have a lot of stuff to work on."
The first-team offense appeared to embrace the idea of playing more against the Raiders after seeing the field for a total of 23 plays in the first two preseason games while not scoring a touchdown. For the past week, the Cardinals have been trying to figure out why the starters haven't found a rhythm yet.
Offensive lineman Lyle Sendlein had one theory.
"For whatever reason we're locking up mentally when we're getting out there," he said. "It's things our coaches go over with us the day before and that's why they're so disappointed in us because they know we can do it.
"There's a fine line of being relaxed and being uptight and I don't think we're uptight. I think we're just trying to do too much. I know we are good and we will be good but the problem is we're just trying to do more than (our) job and when you do that, you make mistakes and things aren't executed the way they should be."
Brown narrowed it down even more. He said the offensive line isn't picking up blitzes or protecting the quarterbacks well enough, which in turn has stymied the offense.
The Cardinals' anointed leader on and off the field, Larry Fitzgerald, added to Brown's list, saying the squad needs to improve on their effort, excitement, enthusiasm and competitiveness.
"We got beat up last week," Fitzgerald said. "We didn't play great against the Saints and it's unacceptable. We're paid to perform and that's what we're here for. That's our job, that's our livelihood.
"We have to have a no-tolerance for mistakes and bad plays. We have to come together as a group. The guys that are in this locker room are the guys we're going to be playing with against Seattle the first week of the season. We have to get it together. We've got to get it together soon."
Even though the Cardinals are one of two teams in the league who will play five preseason games, any plan to incrementally build playing time has been quashed.
And by this point in training camp, the players are in good enough shape to play extended minutes.
"None of us have any complaints about that because we got to get it right," quarterback Kevin Kolb said. "We got three games to get it right, 28 days, and we're definitely not there yet."
But if there is progress Friday, Whisenhunt said he won't hesitate to rest the productive few. The coach also levied a warning to the younger players this week. He advised them to work harder in practice to impress the coaching staff, because there was a good chance they may not see the field Friday.
"Coach is pretty clear," Sendlein said. "If it doesn't happen until the last drive of the fourth quarter then that's how long we'll play."