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Rondale Moore, Zaven Collins Show Out In Preseason Opener For Cardinals

 Young players deliver hope in 19-16 win over Cowboys

Wide receiver Rondale Moore gets outside in the first half of the Cardinals' preseason opener against the Cowboys Friday night.
Wide receiver Rondale Moore gets outside in the first half of the Cardinals' preseason opener against the Cowboys Friday night.

Kyler Murray, as it turned out, didn't dress.

Chandler Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Budda Baker didn't play either.

But the preseason is for the guys with something still to prove, and the Cardinals have plenty of those guys too. So it was good to see first-round pick Zaven Collins shoot the gap for a two-yard tackle for loss on his first series as a pro in the game at State Farm Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys. Second-round wide receiver Rondale Moore impressed with 39 yards on five touches. Fourth-round cornerback Marco Wilson broke up a couple of passes.

Even 2020 seventh-round pick Eno Benjamin, who never donned a uniform all season because of the loss of the preseason and his inactive status in the regular season, made his early push for third-string running back by showing fantastic vision on a six-yard touchdown run and a 38-yard cutback run.

"I thought it wasn't too big for them," coach Kliff Kingsbury said of his young players after the Cardinals came up with a 19-16 win when veteran kicker Matt Prater booted a 47-yard field goal on the last play of the game. "I know it's just a preseason game, but there are fans in the stands and it's NFL football and it's the Dallas Cowboys.

"They went out and competed."

Regardless of the outcome, the Cardinals got what they needed. The Cowboys (0-2) suffered a bunch of injuries, but the Cards ended up with only a couple (running back Jonathan Ward's ankle and safety Chris Banjo's hamstring.)

Murray's absence – despite Kingsbury saying earlier in the week the quarterback would play – was simply a matter of getting in enough good work during the week that the coaches changed their mind on putting him out there.

Asked if Murray would play next Friday at home against the Chiefs in a nationally televised ESPN game, Kingsbury would only say "we'll see."

But the other main point Kingsbury made going into the game, that he wouldn't be so careful with hiding the offense, came to pass. The Cardinals broke out a handful of plays with motion-at-the-snap and getting players – like Moore – into space.

The very first play was a swing pass to Moore for seven yards, and it was the first of a few times he showed his talents.

"We see it when he goes against our first defense," Kingsbury said. "We had a feeling he was going to be hard to cover at times. He's an elusive, dynamic player and that's what he's been. Hopefully that continues."

Moore and the rest of what the Cardinals ran left an impression with backup QB Colt McCoy, who started in place of Murray. When McCoy came out of the game, he told Kingsbury, "Man, that was fun." McCoy looked sharp, completing 6-of-7 passes for 69 yards. Third-stringer Chris Streveler had a highlight 23-yard run and led the Cardinals on the game-winning drive.

Benjamin, meanwhile, looked good considering it was the first time he suited up for a game since he played for Arizona State in 2019.

"Everything about tonight felt great," Benjamin said.

Then there was Collins, who looked calm in his new role as playcaller for the defense and remained calm talking about it after. The tackle-for-loss was a highlight, with he and Isaiah Simmons playing into the second quarter.

"Making that play at the beginning was obviously a good start," Collins said. "I was amped up about it."

As were the Cardinals about their first time on the field in 2021.