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Behind Enemy Lines: Arizona Cardinals

In the preseason dress rehearsal, the Bengals travel to Arizona to pay a visit to an old friend, Carson Palmer, and his Arizona Cardinals. We at Cincy Jungle paid a visit with Jess Root, Senior Managing Editor of Revenge of the Birds, to talk a little Arizona Cardinals.

Joe Robbins

Q: Palmer can still make all the throws required by an NFL QB, but he also has a knack for a lot of turnovers and a lot of untimely turnovers. How has he looked his second year in the Cardinals offense?

A: In his limited preseason work, he has looked very sharp. He knows where to look and he has better protection. People are excited about how good he can be this year.

Q: The Cardinals had some problems on the line in 2013, especially the left side. With the return of Cooper and the addition of Veldheer, how has the line looked so far?

A: Well, no issues with left tackle. Surprisingly, left guard is still in flux because Cooper is not completely recovered. He is healthy, but rusty and not yet back to his previous ability. Now, he is also suffering from turf toe and Bruce Arians does not seem thrilled. Ted Larsen might end up starting there. But Bobby Massie looks great and Paul Fanaika is improved. In pass protection, they look solid. The run game is a little bit of a question still.

Q: I really liked Andre Ellington coming out of college and he averaged 5.5 YPC in 2013. Why didn't he get more playing time in 2013?

A: The team had doubts about his size and durability. And his production was in part because of the limited touches. He will get more this year if he stays healthy.

Q: With the retirement of Mendenhall, will Ellington be the featured back? What type of a season do you see Ellington having?

A: He will be "more featured" but he won't get a Marshawn Lynch workload. He will be used more like Jamaal Charles. I anticipate about 15 carries and four to five receptions.

Q: The news this week about Darnell Dockett's season ending knee injury has to be disappointing. How do you see this impacting the Cardinals? And, is this an injury that could derail the Cardinals season?

A: His leadership will be missed more than his production. In terms of play, they have people in place. Veteran Frostee Rucker, who has been a starter, will start. Then they have rookie, Ed Stinson behind him. In terms of production, they might see more. But Dockett is the heart and soul of the defense. And already losing Karlos Dansby and Yeremiah Bell, they will need to develop a new emotional identity.

Q: What type of impact does the Daryl Washington suspension have on this defense?

A: Well, he makes things easier to scheme because of his speed. But the defensive front is so good to begin with, so he had an easy job. Now with Larry Foote and Kevin Minter, they have to do more with help in coverage, but the rush defense should be fine.

Q: What is the deepest/strongest position on this 2014 Cardinals team?

A: Based on what we have seen, it would have to be receiver.

Q: What is the most intriguing roster battle in Cardinals camp this year?

A: The truth is that they have all been secondary battles. Running back behind Ellington, WR3, 4 and 5, and now left guard are ones to watch, although things are shaking out more clearly now.

Q: Who is a player most Bengals fans won't know, but should know, or should look for on Sunday?

A: There are a pair of receivers -- John Brown and Jaron Brown. They have been playmakers in the two first preseason games. Also, Justin Bethel on defense at cornerback and not just as a gunner or special teams player.

Q: What is the strength of the 2014 Cardinals? And, what areas of this Cardinals team concern you?

A: The strength seems to be the passing game and rush defense. There are concerns with the running game still and covering tight ends...still.

Q: I believe the Cardinals are the most balanced team in the toughest division in the NFL.

Because of that, I had the Cardinals going 11-5 and winning the West in 2013. I picked them again this year to win the West at 11-5. How do you see the Cardinals stacking up in the NFC West?

A: They look good, but it will come down to the division matchups. I think they will have to be 4-2 in the division to win it.

Q: What is your prediction for the Cardinals 2014 season?

A: I think they have a win range of eight to 12 games, but if I had to make a guess, they would go 10-6 and might miss the postseason again.

Q: Were this a regular season game, what would your prediction be?

A: 27-16, Cardinals