The Pro Football Hall of Fame took a bit of a black eye last season when the field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium wasn't in playable conditions for the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts. This year, the Hall of Fame Game has a whole new look. The field in Canton has been completely resurfaced, and the game is going to be played on a Thursday night for the first time. The teams that are playing in the first duel of the season, the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals, are no strangers to the Hall of Fame Game, as they've both played here in Canton since 2010.
The Cardinals won't want to remember their most recent trip to the Hall of Fame Game. They were here in 2012 in what turned out to be the first game of the last season for Ken Whisenhunt in charge of the team. Arizona had just put a lot of stock into Kevin Kolb, an acquisition in the offseason to try to solidify the quarterback position for the first time since Kurt Warner.
That said, Kolb was hurt in the Hall of Fame Game and was never the same.
You can bet that Bruce Arians, who ended up being the successor to the Whizz in the desert, will learn some lessons from that. Carson Palmer probably isn't going to play in the Hall of Fame Game at all, and we can't imagine that Drew Stanton is going to be under center for all that long either.
Arians isn't afraid to throw his quarterbacks to the wolves and let them throw the ball all over the yard in the preseason. That means Blaine Gabbert and rookie Trevor Knight are going to be asked to do a lot. Both will very likely throw double-digits in passes in this one, and that's going to be a big test for both, particularly Knight.
More interesting is the fact that Arizona is bringing 10 rookies into this game, including both first-round pick, Haason Reddick and second-round pick, Budda Baker. These two are going to be under a tremendous spotlight in this game, especially since a veteran defense probably isn't going to spend much time on the field.
When Dallas was last in the Hall of Fame Game in 2013, Jason Garrett was coaching his first game in his career. He elected to leave both his starting quarterback, Tony Romo, and his backup quarterback, Kyle Orton on the bench for the game, leaving Nick Stephens and Alex Tanney to play the whole game.
If Garrett follows suit this year, both Dak Prescott and Kellen Moore won't see the field in this one.
That said, Garrett has already stated that he wants to learn a little bit about his backup quarterbacks in case he ends up in a position like he was in last year when both Romo and Moore were hurt before the start of the season. Thus, we suspect we'll see a relatively even split between Moore, Zac Dysert and rookie Cooper Rush. There's a chance that Garrett carries just two quarterbacks on his roster this year, and that could see both Rush and Dysert fighting for jobs on other teams.
Garrett is typically conservative, and that means we're probably going to see a lot of runs for the backs deep on the depth chart. We already know that Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris should be the three running backs on this roster. Rod Smith, who was picked up on waivers from Seattle, could have a lot of carries on this night.
The Cowboys have 13 rookies on their defense they're going to be counting on a lot in this one to showcase these men. Of the 16, seven were actually drafted, and at least five of them, Taco Charlton, Marquez White, Xavier Woods, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, are all expected to at least be on the depth chart.
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