After finishing the 2020 NFL season with an 8-8 record, the Arizona Cardinals once again missed the postseason for the fifth straight year. While they weren't necessarily a bad team, they weren't that great either. That led to the Cardinals going out this offseason to bring in some new key players, including three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner.
The Cardinals will have their first opportunity to showcase some of their new pieces as they host the Dallas Cowboys in preseason action Friday night. The game will also serve as a chance for various Arizona players to solidify their roster spots or at least prove why they deserve one.
Here's a look at three Cardinals players to watch in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL preseason.
Arizona Cardinals Players to Watch
1. Maxx Williams, Tight End
Seventh-year TE Maxx Williams may not be someone that a lot of people are familiar with. After all, he's never put up those eye-popping numbers that the other tight ends around the NFL consistently put up. However, Williams has the chance to be the No. 1 TE this season after Dan Arnold joined the Carolina Panthers over the offseason. An ankle injury held Williams to just nine games (eight starts) in 2020, resulting in him tallying eight receptions on 10 targets for 102 yards and a touchdown. Another interesting to note is that he has just one drop in his last 38 games and has had a minimum 102.9 passer rating when targeted in each of the past three campaigns. This season could be Williams' best opportunity to make a name for himself in the league.
2. Eno Benjamin, Running Back
While Eno Benjamin was selected in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft, he didn't get a chance to make his debut last year due to a lack of preseason games. With Conner out of the lineup due to him being a high-risk contact for COVID-19, Benjamin has a chance to grab his coaching staff's attention on Friday. He looked impressive over his final two seasons with the Arizona State Sun Devils, recording 3,335 total yards from scrimmage and 30 touchdowns. Obviously, that sort of production is near-impossible at the NFL level, however, it does prove that Benjamin is someone that the Cardinals can use both in the rushing and passing games. Impressing his coaches against the Cowboys could be the deciding factor for how the rest of his season shapes up.
3. Victor Dimukeje, Outside Linebacker
There's no question that Chandler Jones is Arizona's No. 1 outside linebacker. After that, things get a little more questionable. Fourth-year LB Dennis Gardeck is still on the PUP list after suffering a torn ACL last season, so his status is still up in the air. That situation has opened up the door for rookie Victor Dimukeje to be Jones' backup, at least for the time being. A sixth-round pick in 2021, Dimukeje was solid in his final year at Duke. He played 11 games for the Blue Devils in 2020, finishing the season with 39 total tackles (8.0 for a loss), 7.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He's a great pass-rusher, however, his 6-foot-2 height 33 -and-1/8-inch length leaves a bit to be desired. Still, his 73.2 overall grade on ProFootballFocus showed that he was effective at his job and could challenge for a depth role on the Cardinals this preseason.
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