Arizona Cardinals Preseason: Week 3 will be great test for defense

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 12: Running back Jalen Richard
GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 12: Running back Jalen Richard /

Fans will get a great look at the Arizona Cardinals defense when they face off against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday in Preseason Week 3.

The Arizona Cardinals ugly 7-8-1 season is in the mirror. Gone are the likes of Chandler Catanzaro who, after looking like Arizona’s long-time kicker in 2014 and 2015, missed 12 total kicks last season. Also gone is long-time defensive lineman Calais Campbell, amongst others.

Those still in the desert are back to redeem themselves. After all, the Cardinals went 13-3 the season prior, falling to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game. Veterans Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald were key components of both season. And both are back for another shot at a Super Bowl ring before their storied careers ultimately come to a close.

On the other side of the ball on Saturday night’s Preseason Week 3 matchup is the Atlanta Falcons. They, unlike the Cardinals, had a season to remember as their offense was historically one of the best in NFL history en route to the Super Bowl.

But the Falcons are ready to put 2017 behind them as well. While quarterback Matt Ryan won the MVP during the regular season and Julio Jones looked unstoppable, neither could help close out a 28-3 lead on Super Bowl Sunday.

For the Falcons, it’ll be all about replicating what they did in 2016. As fans, we’ll get the first good look at what we could see this season this weekend as the third week of the preseason is primed with starters playing well into the third quarters.

That means the Cardinals defense is due for a challenge. Ryan and co. put up 540 points and accumulated over 6,600+ offensive yards last season. Saturday night will be their first big test to see if they have the tools to compete with the NFL’s best even if it just means for two quarters.

Players to keep your eye on include rookie linebacker Haason Reddick and cornerback Justin Bethel. Reddick should be tasked with taking care of running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, both of which are great in all facets of the game. And Bethel, who will start opposite Patrick Peterson in Week 1, will be tasked with facing the star-studded group of Falcons receivers that includes Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel.

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The Cardinals up front will have to go without Robert Nkemdiche who left Tuesday’s practice with a left calf strain. He’s expected to miss 2-3 weeks, putting him in jeopardy of missing week one. Other notables that may not hit the field Saturday night include Karlos Dansby, Mike Iupati and Brittan Golden.