The summer was long and tough, but finally NFL football is back and here to stay until February of 2018.
So, who had the plays of the game and what does this mean for the team going forward?
Let’s take a look at one highlight from the offense, the defense, and the special teams.
First, the rushing touchdown by Andre Ellington to close out Blaine Gabbert’s second offensive drive as the starter:
What’s impressive is the sheer amount of push from Cole Toner and Dorian Johnson, pushing Ellington all the way down from the 3 yard line into a space for him to creep his way into the endzone.
If the Cardinals’ young interior of Toner, Johnson and Boehm is the future, it might be a bright future indeed. Also tremendous balance by Ellington, who’s fighting for a roster spot.
Also, Brittan Golden’s pitch-and-catch from Blaine Gabbert deserved a mention as well.
Next, let’s take a look at the defensive play of the game:
Budda Baker breaks up the pass pic.twitter.com/ZUmPmUXsU4— Blake Allen Murphy (@blakemurphy7) August 4, 2017
Budda Baker showed great awareness in coverage and closing speed to cross the receiver and swat the ball down in a critical down & distance situation.
If he’s going to be anywhere close to how the Honey Badger has played, the Cardinals might have a special defender on their hand.
Robert Nkemdiche’s penetrations (sorry, I know this is a family site) also deserved a shout-out but there were quite a few of them during the first half, enough where it was hard to just pick one.
Finally, to the area the Cardinals struggled the most with in 2016: special teams.
So, uh....do the Cardinals have their kick returner now?
Looks like it, although T.J. Logan had to leave the game, he showed explosiveness, a knack in the open field and vision for one of the most entertaining Cardinals kickoffs we’ve seen the last few years, ever since David Johnson housed a kick in Chicago, 2015.
The special teams for the Cardinals HAVE to improve. And if Logan is able to live up to his billing, the fact that the Cowboys were already kicking away from him in the game (after ONE kick) bodes well for his future.
What’s most interesting about these highlights is that, while Blaine Gabbert was certainly the talk of the game, these are all rookie players making big contributions.
It’s a far-cry from last year’s rookie class which struggled on the field, and if AZ has any hope of getting back to the playoffs, they’ll need these rookies to step up in a big, big way.
-You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter.
Thanks for reading.