What a game, albeit a preseason game.
First off, I had to wait on the re-air on NFL Network and then I had to wait for the wife to get bored with the Patriots' recording on TiVo before I could watch the Cardinals game. Something in my mind told me I wouldn't be missing much. I was right and wrong.
First Half — Hyde Please
Whether the Cardinals looked as bad as they did, especially on defense, or the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers are that good will have to wait for the regular season to prove (Week 17 to be exact). Kurt Warner was repeatedly harried by the Packers' swarming defense and never was quite in sync with the offense (10 of 16 for 139 yards, one interception and a couple of fumbles). For the first time in a couple of years I was wishing the Cards would just run the ball as Tim Hightower (six carries for 38 yards with a stellar long of 23 yards) and Chris "Beanie" Wells (seven carries for 46 yards with an "oh-face" touchdown run of 20-yards and another for two yards) were the only highlights of the first half. The Cardinals' defense was active but Aaron Rodgers was victimizing the secondary repeatedly. It didn't help that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was looking like a rookie again getting burned for a couple of touchdowns.
By the time the first half had ended it was 38-10 and I was in such a foul mood I turned off the game and slept on the couch. ::grumble, grumble:: Perhaps I was having a "hard hat" moment and had no faith in Matt Leinart but my "lack of faith" was reduced upon my continued viewing of the game this morning.
Second Half — Is There a Doctor (Jeckyl) in the House?
With a 38-10 score I was expecting some boring garbage time playing and was watching only to see how the "bubble" players were doing, especially on the defensive side of the ball (Hawkwind <3 Reggie Walker). Matt Leinart came out with effectively the first team offense and showed some flashes of what most Cardinals fan hope he will be (kinda like that Rodgers guy on the other team). His throws had zip on them and were quite catchable (alas, not frequently enough *cough*Doucet*cough*). With the Cardinals' defense holding the Brian Brohm-led Packers in check, Leinart (24 of 38 for 360 yards, three touchdowns and an interception) was able to lead the Cardinals to within a touchdown when Neil Rackers' self-possessed on-side kick gave the Cardinals an opportunity to win the game. Jason Wright showed some ability to navigate on two interior receptions, the second for a touchdown, making a case for the Cardinals to keep four running backs on the 53-man roster (pending LaRod Stephens-Howling's recovering from getting his bell rung). With the Cardinals going for the victory, Leinart tossed a perfect floater to Early Doucet who got two hands on the ball but couldn't secure the catch and the two-point conversion. Former Amsterdam Admiral Ruvell Martin recovers the following on-side kick easily and scores uncontested to effectively squelch any further "WTF" Cardinals come-back magic.
Matt Leinart: Seeing that Brian St. Pierre wasn't even dressed, Matt Leinart's job as the Cardinals' back-up QB is secure (was it really ever in doubt? Really? Really!). Granted, Leinart wasn't going against the Packers' first-team defense but Dom Capers wasn't playing a vanilla defense either. Matt and the second-team offense did well and in the back of my mind I am hearing a voice saying "start Leinart against Denver next week".
First-team Secondary: Is there a need to be worried still? Like most, I've figured the Cardinals' secondary was no longer a weak link but after yesterday's game I'm biting my lip and doubting them. Certainly the front seven could have helped by getting some better pressure but DRC looked, well, like crap. If it weren't for his long neck, his facial expressions were reminding me of David Macklin after getting beaten repeatedly. ::cringe:: He should have had an interception on the first Packers' drive but then he shouldn't be letting receivers past him for uncontested receptions either. At this point I have to write this off as preseason football and assume that with some game planning the secondary and overall defense will play much better against the 49ers in a couple of weeks.
Reggie Walker: Okay, I'm going to admit to being a total homer on this but damn, he looked good. He's been catching my eye since the Steelers' game and I'm breathing a sigh of relief knowing that he's on the roster. Who the back-up for Gerald Hayes and Karlos Dansby has been a nagging question (Pago? Ali?) and this UFA Rookie out of Kansas State is making a serious case to be that back-up.
Will Davis (?!): With Cody Brown likely out for the season after dislocating his wrist, Davis saw a lot of playing time and looked good, even great at times (sweet sack!). Davis was a shoo-in for the practice squad in most RotBer's minds but with the depth at outside linebacker looking weak, Davis' play is encouraging (#59 was doing well on kick-off coverages too).
Doucet vs. Morey vs. Long vs. Jones: Who is playing in Kansas City in Week One? Morey is too much of a beast on special teams and Long's fumbled punt return didn't help his case for replacing Sean. Onrea Jones has looked good but is just another big target on a team full of big targets. Early Doucet has the third round draft pick albatross around his neck which may explain his dropped balls. With Jerhame Urban solidifying his #4 WR spot, who deserves that #5? Is #6 still Morey's? Will Long or Jones clear waivers if that's their fate?
For the third preseason game, the first half results are discouraging and fill me with thoughts of "same ol' Cardinals" once more. Yet the depth of talent on this roster brushes those thoughts away with positive thoughts of "Defending NFC Champions". What are your thoughts, the RotB Faithful, and who do you think solidified their roster spot(s) on the Cardinals?