On Thursday night in Canton, Ohio, the arizona cardinals and Dallas Cowboys kicked off the 2017 NFL preseason in the Hall of Fame Game. It was the first of five summertime tilts for both the Cards and the defending NFC East champions. It was also a contest in which the Cardinals’ sideline leader announced that none of his starters would play in the contest. When it was all said and done, Jason Garrett’s Cowboys came away with a 20-18 victory. So what did we all really learn about a Cardinals’ club that many picked to play in Super Bowl LI and failed to reach the playoffs this past season?

What’s in these numbers?

We did not expect to see Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and that was indeed the case. Instead, it was six-year pro Blaine Gabbert that got the nod vs. the Cowboys. The one-time Jacksonville Jaguars’ first-round pick spent time with the San Francisco 49ers before being signed by the Big Red this past season. He’s currently the third-string signal-caller behind Palmer and veteran Drew Stanton. Gabbert was particularly sharp in this outing against primarily Dallas’ reserves and rookies. He would finish hitting 11 of his 14 passes for 185 yards. He led the Cards to a pair of touchdown drives and even scored on a two-point conversion. Gabbert was sacked twice and fumbled on one of those plays.

But it was the way he threw the football that showed encouragement. Trevor Knight, a rookie free agent from Texas A&M, saw action at quarterback as well.

Can this team rebound in 2017?

As has been well-documented, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had not been happy with his team during training camp. And early on against the Cowboys, the club looked like it was taking out some frustration against the defending NFC East champs.

Gabbert orchestrated a pair of impressive touchdown drives on each of the club’s first two possessions. The first covered 75 yards in eight plays, the second 64 yards in seven plays. Also impressive was the running of reserve Kerwynn Williams, on and off the Arizona active roster the last few years. The Cardinals’ defense also played with some intensity, although the ‘Boys offensive front was missing numerous starters.

What had to make Arians’ somewhat happy was the attitude his team played with, especially in the first quarter. When you are a club coming off a sobering 7-8-1 season, you build on the positives. And this performance was less about the final score and more about intensity.