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By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The upcoming preseason bout between the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders may not hold a great deal of importance to either team, but Friday's game at University of Phoenix Stadium will certainly be a crucial one for Kevin Kolb.
Kolb has his best -- and perhaps last -- chance to grab hold of the open No. 1 quarterback job that he's close to letting slip away with a pair of poor displays in Arizona's first two contests of this preseason. The expected starter went 1-of-4 for a paltry four yards and one interception in an injury- shortened stint against New Orleans in the Aug. 5 Hall of Fame Game, and wasn't effective again in the Cardinals' 27-17 loss at Kansas City last week. Relieving competitor John Skelton in the second quarter, Kolb completed only one of his five attempts for 21 yards while failing to generate any points.
The sixth-year pro will still get the starting nod in Friday's matchup, with Skelton presently slated to begin next week's game against Miami. That could change if Kolb bounces back with a strong effort against the Raiders, however, especially after the Cardinals handed the struggling signal-caller a $7 million option bonus back in March.
Skelton, who won five of seven starts in relief of an injured Kolb last season, hasn't taken advantage of his opportunity either. The strong-armed 24- year-old was an unimpressive 3-of-6 for 35 yards with an interception against the Chiefs.
Arizona had greater success running the football in the Kansas City game, with deep reserve William Powell ripping off 92 yards and a touchdown on only nine carries and Alfonso Smith adding 40 yards on nine attempts. Both players figure to receive less reps this week, though, with top options Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells both nearing a return from knee injuries that have sidelined each for the first two outings.
Williams, Arizona's second-round choice in the 2011 draft who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve with a torn patella tendon, is slated to make his long-awaited return against the Raiders. Wells, who produced 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago, was activated from the physically unable to perform list last week and has a chance to see action in the Cardinals' home preseason opener as well.
The Cardinals will also be making a change on the offensive line, with journeyman D'Anthony Batiste taking over for veteran Jeremy Bridges at right tackle in a performance-related switch.
Oakland's offense is coming off a rather sluggish showing of its own this past week, gaining a mediocre 253 total yards in Monday's 3-0 shutout setback to Dallas that marked Dennis Allen's first game as the team's head coach. Starting quarterback Carson Palmer was intercepted on the Raiders' opening possession and hit on just 3-of-6 attempts for 33 yards before exiting.
On a more positive note, the Raiders' defense held the Cowboys to 202 total yards and a 2-of-10 success rate on third downs, and there were bright spots on the offensive side on the night. One was the healthy return of Darren McFadden in the impact running back's first game action since October of last season.
McFadden, limited to seven games in 2011 by a nagging foot sprain, had 20 yards on his two rushes while adding an 18-yard reception. He'll likely see an slightly increased workload on Friday, especially with main backups Mike Goodson (neck) and Taiwan Jones (hamstring) to miss a second straight week.
Wide receiver Rod Streater, attempting to make Oakland's roster as an undrafted rookie, also impressed with a six-catch, 66-yard effort. With projected starting wideout Denarius Moore still bothered by a strained hamstring, the college free agent could also be in line for a heavier role on Friday.
Linebacker Aaron Curry and All-Pro punter Shane Lechler will also sit out for the Raiders with knee injuries, while veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee) is a question mark after being held out against Dallas.
Oakland holds a 7-5 lead in its overall preseason series with Arizona, but the Cardinals have taken the last two meetings in the set. The Cards came through with a 24-18 road victory last season, while also posting a 24-0 decision at the Coliseum in 2008.
08/15 16:00:54 ET
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