The outcome wasn’t in the Cardinals favor. After jumping out to a 15-0 lead in the first quarter, fans felt excited by what they were seeing on the field. As the Defense began to let more and more of their young, inexperienced players play those thoughts turned to, “Oh, that was ugly”. The game ended with a final of 20-18.
As we look back at what happened yesterday, it is important to remember that is exactly how the rest of the preseason will look. Luckily we will get to see our first teams running a little more each game, but ultimately we are going to see a lot of that second half of football.
The backups looked very impressive on the offensive side of the ball. Three of the backups, Cole Toner, Will Holden, and Dorian Johnson all looked the part of capable NFL starters. Of course, if the league was backups vs backups. As mentioned in some of the comments on the “Winners and Losers” some folks brought up the fact that the three of them are 23 years old. With both Evan Boehm and DJ Humphries also 23, the Cardinals could have a very good line for the future.
Holden and Johnson did not spend much time with the second team offense, but I did see them on a few snaps towards the end of the half.
It would have been nice to see the line get a little more push up front on run plays, but they kept Gabbert and his pocket clean for the most part.
Blaine Gabbert drew the attention of a lot of fans. He is supposed to be the best-looking player on the field. A seven-year vet going against a bunch of rookies and first-year players should win the battle. Going 12/14 from the field, and pushing the pile for a two-point conversion, Gabbert drew praise from Bruce Arians. The battle for QB2 is on.
The rookies showed up on Thursday. TJ Logan was impressive as a returner and showed some grit as a running back. Logan had a couple of hard runs and even got himself a good pass protection had Trevor Knight stayed in the pocket.
Haason Reddick had his hand in a number of plays. For a guy learning to play inside, Reddick has been very impressive.
Budda Baker looked like a “Honey Badger” replica on the field. James Bettcher played him in several different positions, as a rusher off the edge, safety, corner, pretty much anywhere. Baker impressed no matter the position.
Both Ifeanyi Momah and Troy Niklas impressed. Both run blocked well, and both had their hands in the passing game. If both players can stay healthy, the Cardinals will have three dangerous tight ends.
The Special Teams unit looked good for the first time in the Arians era. TJ Logan was a threat returning the ball. The coverage unit limited the Cowboys returns, and we finally witnessed a legitimate NFL caliber punting game. While kickoffs were lacking, both players are punters so there’s little cause for concern.
The third team line was understandably bad. There was no push in the run game. Trevor Knight was constantly under pressure. (some of it was his own doing, however)
Rodney Gunter was beaten on a number of plays. I recall one play where he met the Cowboys running back in the back field but was carried for a five-yard gain. Gunter is a guy the team will likely need to perform in 2017, in order to help fill the departure of Calais Campbell.
The Wide Receivers had some good plays. Chad Williams catch and run was impressive. But there were several other receivers who were unimpressive. For instance, the 6’3 Krishawn Hogan was out jumped by a 5’10 defensive back. Chris Hubert lost track of a couple of poorly thrown balls but generally seemed unaware it was thrown. Dropped passes from some of the younger players seemed to occur too often.
TJ Logan was impressive. But a wrist injury bit him towards the end of the game. We will find out soon whether or not the injury is severe enough to keep him out for an extended amount of time.
Trevor Knight was about what you would expect from a guy with a 53% career completion rating. Knight finished the night 5/14 for 68 yards. I understand he is raw. That he’s learning one of the more complex offensive schemes in the league, but Cooper Rush, a player with a similar learning curve, looked more poised in the face of a number of Cardinal blitzes.
The majority of the secondary looked lost. They are all young, most were playing in their first ever game. But no one, save for Budda Baker, managed to impress, let alone soothe some of the concerns of the fan base. Brandon Williams had a few good plays but also struggled with double moves. Harlan Miller showed why the team moved him to safety, after getting scorched for a big play. Rudy Ford was in a lot of plays, and tied for the team lead with nine tackles. Both he and Ironhead Gallon were looking for some bodies to hit, but neither made much of an impression in coverage.
Mental Errors did not show up on the stat sheet, but you could certainly see some of the more egregious mistakes. One such instance was Trevor Knight attempting to hand off to Elijaah Penny, but Penny ran out for a pass instead. Those mistakes are to be expected when you get that low on the roster, but they’re still ugly none the less.
The team now has their first tape to sit down and review. It will be huge for the young guys to be able to see what they did wrong, and why they did it wrong.
The Cardinals will have their next game on August 12, when the Oakland Raiders come to town.