A glance at five top storylines for Sunday's Cardinals-Rams game in St. Louis:
- Patrick Peterson on offense
We've spent the past month or so talking about the Pro Bowl cornerback and his growing part in the playbook. Now we see how often the Cardinals use Peterson on that side of the ball. With only four receivers, Peterson's role makes even more sense. Seeing him on offense for, say, seven plays could make some sense. Even if it is as just a decoy at times.
- Watching Austin
Rams rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin has got speed to spare. Rams coach Jeff Fisher hasn't exactly showcased him in the preseason, but there is little question the high draft pick is supposed to be the most important weapon St. Louis added in the offseason. St. Louis has other options – Chris Givens has a chance to be pretty good, and he hurt the Cards last year – but Austin could be special. Would be fun to see him matched up inside against fellow rookie Tyrann Mathieu at some point.
- Levi versus last year's 9
The Cardinals' offensive line – and their ability to protect quarterback Carson Palmer – will be a season-long storyline. The beginning of the end last season, although the Cards hoped it was a fluke at the time, was the Thursday trip to St. Louis. It was not only the Cards' first loss after a 4-0 start but exposed the problems that lead to nine sacks. Starting left tackle Levi Brown was long gone for the season by then, injured. Brown is back, but he faces a team with tough edge rushers like Robert Quinn and Chris Long.
- Run versus pass, B.A.-style
Bruce Arians has a stable of running backs available and he has said many times how much he wants balance and to establish the run. But until the games start for real, it's hard to tell how Arians will dial up his play calls – and whether he's going to start chucking it all over the place. Rashard Mendenhall did look solid in the preseason running the ball. An effective – consistently effective – running game would be a breath of fresh air for the Cards. Getting a sense of Arians' rhythm will be one of the most important lessons of the opener.
- Aggressiveness of Todd Bowles
The feeling from the holdover defensive players is that new coordinator Todd Bowles is actually even more aggressive than ex-DC Ray Horton, for whom aggressive might have well been a middle name. Bowles definitely wants to create turnovers – turnovers and points allowed are the focus of this entire coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball – but the reward that comes with such decisions also carries risk. The Rams have speed at receiver, and that can quickly hurt a team in the wrong position or if it is unable to reach the QB. With an offensive head coach, it will be Bowles' stamp on the Cardinals' defense. Soon we will see what that means.