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Cardinals Set To Open Preseason Against Cowboys

Player opinions vary on the games before the games that count, however

Linebacker Zaven Collins goes through drills during a recent training camp practice.
Linebacker Zaven Collins goes through drills during a recent training camp practice.

A year away from preseason games didn't make Justin Pugh's heart grow any fonder for the games that don't count in the standings.

"You're asking a salty, offensive lineman and veteran," the left guard said. "We added a game on to the season I don't think we needed. We proved last year that we didn't necessarily need the preseason games. Everyone thought it was going to look like, you know, they weren't going to able to identify the game of football being played on the field. We still went out and had a successful season. I'm all for miles off a guy's body. But that's a soon-to-be-31-year-old offensive lineman talking. Maybe someone else has a different opinion."

Whether Pugh and other veterans play much -- or at all -- when the Cardinals host the Cowboys Friday night in their preseason opener is to be determined. But the preseason games over the last few years has always been about the younger players anyway.

First-round pick Zaven Collins came in 180 degrees from Pugh, noting that it was fun to be able to play in a game by now because "for rookies, it's been a long process."

"It's my first professional game, not only excited for the fans and the Arizona Cardinals organization, but my family back home and everyone back in Tulsa," Collins said.

Collins will be one of the players under the spotlight as the Cards and everyone else see how he fits in to the starting lineup and calling plays. His teammate at inside linebacker, Isaiah Simmons, never got preseason work last year and his training ground with Collins is three preseason games.

Josh Jones, another 2020 rookie who didn't get the regular-season work Simmons did, gets an opportunity to show if he is worthy of being a starting right guard.

Even Kliff Kingsbury gets a chance to work on his self-acknowledged errors of his previous preseason coaching back in 2019. At the time, the Cardinals went so vanilla on offense that when the regular season started, they weren't prepared to execute.

"We were trying to keep it all tucked in, hide the offense, and like I said (before) it was a mistake," Kingsbury said. "This year we will be a little bit more open and play our game to an extent."

At the same time, Kingsbury said, "we're not going to show a whole bunch of offense."

It's difficult to show too much if, for instance, Murray barely plays. But there is something to be said about evaluating down-the-depth-chart players in game action. With still about a month until the regular season, there's also something to be said about working against players that are not teammates.

Eventually, the league is expected to go to an 18-game regular season with two preseason games. That'd be enough for coaches to properly prep for a season, Kingsbury said.

As for Pugh, he wouldn't mind cutting that in half.

"Maybe (play) one game to knock the rust off, let the guys know what it's going to look like, what it's going to feel like, how we get ready," Pugh said. "And then we go play for real."