The Arizona Cardinals open their four-game 2014 preseason schedule Saturday night against the Houston Texans at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
It's not only an opportunity for players to finally hit somebody wearing a different-colored jersey; it also serves as the first time 20 Cardinals rookies will ever lace up their cleats in an NFL game.
Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough is looking forward to see how the diverse group reacts under the bright lights of a live game for the first time.
"Deone Bucannon, our first pick, when the pads came on, he was flying around, hitting people all over practice," McDonough told Doug and Wolf Friday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "(Second round pick) Troy Niklas has been slowed a little bit with his hand injury. He's had a cast on and he's dropping a lot of balls because he can only use one hand. I think a lot of fans don't realize the guy's had a cast on his hand the entire practice."
Bucannon and Niklas were the Cardinals' top two picks in the NFL Draft in May and are expected to make big contributions this season. But McDonough's enthusiasm about players goes deeper on the Cardinals' draft list.
"Our two third-round picks really have done a nice job," he said. "Kareem Martin has been consistent all camp. That's a good guy for the fans to watch, if they want to look at number 96, a rookie defensive end -- he's going to play a lot (Saturday) night. Obviously John Brown has been talked about a lot.
"And Logan Thomas. He's been steady the entire camp and I think he gets better each day. We were charting quarterbacks and he actually threw his first interception of camp last week and he had a 61 percent completion rate up until the other day, so he's really progressed and I'll be excited to watch him play."
Carson Palmer will start at quarterback, and should take about 15 snaps before giving way to second-stringer Drew Stanton. Thomas should play a large portion of the second half in his debut.
"And we've had some undrafted guys that have jumped out, so it's a competive roster," McDonough continued. "Offensively, I think we'll be much improved and defensively guys that have filled in for other guys who have left have done a nice job.
"We're excited to see what happens (Saturday) night."