Unlike the previous three games, this one was actually sort of enjoyable. Not having to worry about starters getting injured may have played a part in that.
1) Matt Barkley
Up until yesterday, Barkley wasn't having the greatest preseason. He had been mediocre the last three games, prompting discussions over whether the Cardinals would even bother keeping a third string QB. But against the Broncos, Barkley showcased the talents that made him famous in Southern California. Completing 20 of 29 attempts for 262 yards and two touchdowns, Barkley's only major mistake came in the 1st quarter, when he fumbled deep in Cardinals territory. Other than that (and a few misfires), Barkley seems to have made his case for staying on the roster. We'll see how the Coaches feel tomorrow.
2) The receivers
With John Brown still battling lingering concussion issues, it remains to be seen who will step up to fill in for Smokey. On Thursday, the bottom of the receiving depth chart attempted to alleviate any concerns. Jaxon Shipley led all Arizona receivers with 4 receptions for 67 yards, including a 14 yard TD late in the 2nd quarter. Marquis Bundy and Brittan Golden had nice performances as well, converting several catches into 1st downs. And JJ Nelson even made a brief appearance when he scored the Cardinals first TD of the game. While Brown will definitely be missed if he does end up having to sit out Week 1, I have no reason to doubt this receiving corps depth.
3) Robert Nkemdiche
Nkemdiche absolutely dominated the entire game. He constantly pressured Broncos QB Paxton Lynch, and even notched a nice sack in the 4th quarter. He'll be fun to watch this season.
4) Chandler Catanzaro
When Catanzaro nailed his long FG in the 3rd quarter, I was confused. I figured the announcers had misspoke about the yardage. Then the replay came on and I realized Catanzaro had actually just kicked a 59 yard FG. Last year he aggravated me with all of the missed extra points, but tonight he reminded us why he had no competition in training camp this year.
5) Elijhaa Penny
UDFA RB Elijhaa Penny had a strong finale performance. He led all running backs on the field with 23 rushes for 113 yards and a TD. He even had a nice 17 yard reception to pad his stats. Penny could end up challenging Stepfan Taylor for his spot on the depth chart down the road.
6) The O-line
The backups on the offensive line held up well last night. In particular, rookies Evan Boehm (center) and Cole Toner (right guard) shined all night, especially in run protection. The line's depth is looking real solid heading into Week 1.
1) Cariel Brooks
Brooks may have cost himself a roster spot with his performance last night. He gave up two touchdowns; the first one came from a blown tackle that was just awful. The one thing he has going for him is that the Cardinals don't really have a lot of cornerback depth right now, especially since Mike Jenkins went down last week with a torn ACL. I'm really concerned about how the secondary will play out. Whoever is across from Patrick Peterson will have to be prepared for constant targets.
1) Kareem Martin's injury
The only thing that can make an injury worse is if it occurs in the preseason. OLB Kareem Martin had to be carted off the field in the 1st half for what is believed to be an MCL injury. He will likely be sidelined for two to three weeks. The team also lost LB Tristan Okpalaugo to a hamstring injury. It could've been worse, but this hurts our linebacker depth. We wish Martin and Okpalaugo a speedy recovery.
To end on a brighter note, preseason is finally over, which means meaningful football is near. Bring on the Patriots.