Last night the Arizona Cardinals welcomed the San Diego Chargers into the University of Phoenix Stadium. While the Cardinals ended up losing the game 34-31, Arizona easily outplayed the Bolts when the starters were all on the field.
In my opinion, this is the sharpest the Cardinals have looked since the 2009 season. They made plays and scored points, something that came at a rarity in 2010. However, there were still some miscues on both sides of the ball; something that Coach Ken Whisenhunt and the team will need to work on before the Panthers come to town.
Injuries: While the injuries this week were nothing major, the team may be without one of it's starters when they play the Broncos on Thursday. Greg Toler, the team's starting cornerback, came out of the game in the first half with a sprained knee.
No further information on the injury has been provided as of now, but don't be surprised if he doesn't play until the regular season begins. Also of note, Max Komar sustained the same type of injury as Toler. Again, it is not certain if he will be a participant during the team's next match.
The Tackles: Both Brandon Keith and Levi Brown had their share of struggles during last night's game. They each picked up penalties for either holding or jumping the gun a bit early, but those are things that can be improved as time goes on. The thing that should worry fans is the amount of pressure they allowed.
Although the offensive line as a whole only gave up two sacks, many edge rushers were able to get pressure on Kevin Kolb and Richard Bartel. For Kolb to make more long passes like he did to Larry Fitzgerald, Keith and Brown will need to seal that edge.
Safety Play: The safeties for the Arizona Cardinals also gave up some big plays to the opposing offense. Tight ends were able to make their way into the second tier of the defense uncovered multiple times and running backs were able to rip off huge gains unscathed.
Ryan Mathews broke out for a 48 yard run, bursting past our secondary before being chased down by A.J. Jefferson. Rashad Johnson has not stepped up during the preseason, so knowing that Adrian Wilson should be ready to go for the opener is a huge relief.
Getting Some Sacks: The Arizona Cardinals were rendered incapable of registering any sacks against the Chargers. Many fans wanted to see second-year linebacker O'Brien Schofield show off his pass rushing skills, but he was designated to coverage for most of the snaps he was in on.
The team was able to hurry Philip Rivers and force a few errant passes and an interception, but a sack for a loss would have been a welcome sight. Sacks are drive killers and when the opponent is forced to punt, the Cardinals offense gets more time to make great plays.
Holding The Opposing Offense At Bay: While the Chargers have one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses, San Diego was still able to rack up 432 total yards on the Cardinals defense. If Arizona can scale this down another 100 yards or so for Denver, I think they are headed for some real success in 2011.
On a side note: Alfonso Smith was expected to have a few carries tonight and many were surprised to see William Powell take his place as the third string back. Kent Somers confirmed that the reason Smith did not play was because of a hamstring issue. I am sure we will see him against the Broncos.