The eyes of football fans around the country will be on Arizona on Sunday afternoon to watch two new starting quarterbacks. Number one overall pick Cam Newton will get the ball for the Carolina Panthers while Kevin Kolb takes the hopes and dreams of Cardinals fans on his shoulders.
"It's a big game for us being at home. Look, we just got to get this thing started off right. After last season, after all the new faces around here, we're very excited and focused to make sure we come out on the right foot," Kolb said this week.
Newton will have a tall task starting in Week 1 of his rookie season. This year especially will be difficult given the lockout which eliminated a good portion of the normal offseason preparation time.
The Cardinals are expecting the Panthers to simplify the offense for Newton but they are still very respectful of his talents and ability to make plays with his feet. According to defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the Cardinals are going to attack Newton, "He's a talented kid we're going to respect but we're going to respect him with pressure."
Kolb understands very well that he needs to get off to a fast start and quickly put away any lingering doubts the fans and even his teammates might have about this quarterback with just seven career starts.
Kevin is saying all the right things and his chemistry with Larry Fitzgerald seems to be developing very fast. Kolb's plan is to prepare for what he expects the Carolina defense to use against him but not to overthink it.
"There's a fine line between still playing the game and being prepared," Kolb said. He likes to talk about going out and just "playing ball".
Newton is expected to struggle early in his NFL career. He'll be forgiven a bad game or games as he learns to make his way as an NFL quarterback. But over time he's expected to grow into a franchise player for the Panthers.
The Cardinals have big hopes for this season. They absolutely think they can win the division and get back to the playoffs and much of that pressure rests on Kolb's shoulders. A poor showing in Week 1 will deflate a lot of dreams.