clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Stray observations from the Cardinals first preseason game and a look ahead to the next one

One preseason game down, two to go. Let’s take a look back at what we saw during the Broncos game and look ahead to the Chiefs on Saturday.

Denver Broncos v Arizona Cardinals
Have the Cardinals found their RB2 in Ty’Son Williams?
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week, the Arizona Cardinals delivered a rousing win in Jonathan Gannon’s head coaching debut. Sure, it was only a preseason game, but it’s great to start this new era of Cardinals football with a win — even if it ultimately doesn’t count for anything.

It’s only one (preseason) game, but there’s already a different vibe about this team than the end of the Kliff Kingsbury era. There were of course some hiccups with backups playing most of the game, but the team did most of the little things right (converted third downs, limited penalties and turnovers) and generally looked ready to execute their game plan.

We’ve had several days now to look back at the highlights, stats, and analytics and start to make some observations about this team. Below are mine with a quick look-ahead to Saturday’s game against the Chiefs.

Offense Observations


  • Colt McCoy only played one series (that ended in a punt), but he looked spry out there in going 4-4 and scrambling for a 1st down. He should be the team’s starter while Kyler Murray recovers from his torn ACL. The team will be in steady hands with him under center.
  • Clayton Tune played the majority of the snaps at QB and looked… just fine. Especially for a 5th-round rookie. He missed a few easy throws and took a few sacks, and the INT he threw wasn’t his fault (Rondale Moore fell down). He did have a nice TD pass to Kaden Davis to tie the game and cap his night. Tune didn’t blow anyone away but he also looked like he belonged. A solid debut.
  • David Blough had an amazing TD pass to Brian Cobbs to set up the game-winning 2PC and looked like solid QB depth. He’ll probably be the team’s third QB while Kyler is recovering and should be a fixture on the practice squad thereafter.

Look-ahead to Week 2:

Teams usually play their starters a bit more in the second preseason game, so will we see more than one series from Colt McCoy? Those reps might be important if he’ll be the starter for a handful of games or more. Otherwise, expect to see plenty more of Clayton Tune—the team seems really interested in seeing what it has in him. Maybe Jeff Driskel will get some snaps instead of Blough?

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

  • We didn’t get much of a look at the guys at the top of the depth chart: Hollywood Brown didn’t play, Rondale Moore had that slip that led to the INT, Greg Dorch didn’t have a catch on 3 targets, Michael Wilson only played 14 unimpactful snaps, and Zach Pascal didn’t even show up in the box score (are we sure he’s a lock for the 53-man?). Kind of a ho-hum game from this group.
  • Guys further down the depth chart made a good impression, though. Daniel Arias and Andre Baccellia made some splashy plays and had similar lines (3-49 and 3-45, respectively), and Davis and Cobbs had the TDs. Davion Davis also played 31 snaps (second-most on the team) but didn’t make much of an impact on the box score (1-16). Can one of these guys make the case as a sixth WR on the 53-man? Or even leap Pascal?
  • Among TEs, Zach Ertz, Trey McBride, and Noah Togiai didn’t play. Is that a sign Togiai is bound for the 53-man? Veteran Geoff Swaim only played 9 snaps, while UDFAs Blake Whiteheart (52) and Joel Honigford (24) played the majority of the TE snaps. The team seems to be giving Whiteheart a long look. Could he be a surprise inclusion on the 53-man?

Look-ahead to Week 2:

Will we see more from the first-team WRs? Hopefully we can at least get more than a 14-snap look at Wilson. We’ll continue to monitor Arias and Baccellia as possible 5th/6th WRs on the 53-man. The TE rotation should be interesting. Will McBride or Togiai make an appearance? Will Swaim get more of an extended look? Or will Whiteheart continue to dominate the snaps?

Running Backs

  • Corey Clement looked kind of like a dud out there, didn’t he? He only went 6-15 on the ground (2.5 YPC), although he did chip in 3-13 receiving (but only a 4.3 YPC). He played with the 1s and 2s, but given how the backs behind him performed, I’m not sure he’s a lock for the 53-man.
  • Ty’Son Williams looks like he could be a real impact player as part of the RB rotation, going 10-51 on the ground (5.1 YPC). Williams made a bit of a splash as an injury fill-in for the Ravens a couple years ago, but wound up falling out of the rotation and Baltimore in general. He had a cup of coffee with us last season. His play should get him a lot of consideration for the 53-man.
  • UDFA Emari Demercado also had a nice game with 6-21 on the ground and 1-4 receiving—and of course churning his legs for the game-winning 2PC. He should have every opportunity to earn the third (or fourth?) RB spot on the 53-man.

Look-ahead to Week 2:

Less Corey Clement, please—Williams and Demercado looked way more effective running the ball. I’d like to see them get even more snaps than they did in the Broncos game. It’s uncertain whether Keaontay Ingram—the nominal #2 on the depth chart—will play as he’s been nursing an injury. He didn’t do much as a rookie and he wasn’t drafted by the current regime, so his roster spot is far from safe.

Offensive Line

  • A common talking point about the Cardinals O-line this offseason has been its improved depth from years past. Well, we had 15(!) guys play double-digit snaps last week, so Gannon and Co. are getting looks at a ton of different guys/line combinations. The starters only played about 15 snaps each (and of course Hump didn’t play), so there’s not much to take away there.
  • But the backups played a ton as guys are fighting for depth chart positioning and roster spots. I didn’t spend a ton of time looking at individual players, but rookie Jon Gaines II did jump out as someone to keep an eye on moving forward. He looks to have a bright future in the interior of the O-line.
  • Talking bigger picture, I will say that the line impressed more as a run-blocking unit than a pass-blocking unit. Williams and Demercado combined for 16-72 (4.5 YPC) running behind them—perfectly respectable numbers. You can tell that Drew Petzing wants to run the ball this year, and he might have the big bodies to cobble together a solid running game. The line did give up 5 sacks, though—some of which can be blamed on inexperienced QBs and the strong Denver pass rush, bit OL coach Klayton Adams probably didn’t like everything he saw from the pass blocking.

Look-ahead to Week 2:

I don’t think there’s much to watch as far as the tackles go: the top four (Hump, Paris Johnson Jr., Kelvin Beachum, and Josh Jones) should all be locks for the 53-man. If anything, you might watch to see if Beachum or Jones gets traded for help elsewhere. There is probably some competition at the end of the interior OL depth chart. Are guys like Pat Elflein, Marquis Hayes, Haydon Howerton, and Lecitus Smith fighting for the final couple roster spots? It’ll be worth keeping an eye on their play against the Chiefs.

Defense Observations

Defensive Line

  • The starters (L.J. Collier, Leki Fotu, and Jonathan Ledbetter) played just a series, and six backups played 20+ snaps each thereafter, led by 6th-round rookie Dante Stills with 34. Like the O-line, I didn’t spend a ton of time looking at individual players. Just looking at the box score, the Broncos piled up 122 rushing yards on 22 carries, but 25 of those were on a jet sweep by a WR and QB Jarrett Stidham added 19 yards on his two carries, so the Broncos RBs only put up a 19-78 line (4.1 YPC). Not great, but not bad. This unit didn’t contribute any sacks but did have two pass deflections (two from Eric Banks, one from Collier). Kind of a nondescript game overall.

Look-ahead to Week 2:

Stills and Banks will continue to push for spots on the 53-man, as it’s anyone’s guess who makes it behind the starting three. Watkins seems like a safe bet, but Rashard Lawrence’s grasp on a spot might be slipping. And it wouldn’t shock for a guy like Kevin Strong to be the odd man out. And don’t count out Ben Stille, who played the second-most snaps against the Broncos. I’ll try to keep an eye on individual players more this week.


  • I thought this group played pretty well overall. At OLB, Cameron Thomas and Dennis Gardeck had sacks, Victor Dimukeje had a pass defense at the line of scrimmage, and Jesse Luketa led this group with 31 snaps. (Thomas did have a missed tackle in the backfield that led to the WR sweep mentioned above.) At ILB, Krys Barnes and Josh Woods seem to be battling for the second starting job alongside Kyzir White (who didn’t play), and backups Owen Pappoe and Kyle Soelle impressed in their snaps. Nick Rallis’s defense looks like it’ll be very LB-friendly, which bodes well for this surprisingly deep group.

Look-ahead to Week 2:

It might not be LB play but special teams play that you’ll want to keep an eye on in Week 2—that’ll probably decide who ultimately makes the 53-man. Dimukeje, Luketa, and Soelle need to impress there, assuming Pappoe is a lock. (I haven’t mentioned Ezekiel Turner yet, but he’s likely a lock as a special teams ace.) Other than that, will we see the recovering Myjai Sanders or BJ Ojulari make their preseason debuts? Will Zaven Collins play more than a series as he continues to make the switch to edge rusher?


  • First off, Kei’Trel Clar, WOW. What a debut from the 6th-round rookie. He was seemingly everywhere on the field making splashy plays. It’s obviously too early to tell, but Monti Ossenfort may have found a diamond in the rough at a huge position of need for the Cardinals. Clark was my biggest takeaway from the Broncos game by far.
  • As far as the other CBs go, I thought nominal starter Antonio Hamilton (33 snaps) had an up-and-down game, and Nate Hairston and Christian Matthew played plenty (31 and 29 snaps, respectively), but I didn’t notice much bad or good from them. At safety, Andre Chachere, JuJu Hughes, and Jovante Moffatt all played 25+ snaps to make their case for the final safety spot on the 53-man behind Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, and Isaiah Simmons.
  • Overall, the Broncos didn’t really have much success throwing against us (a piddling 5.4 YPA)… but they also didn’t throw it downfield much either. The surface stats look good, but was the cause Rallis’s scheme? Our actual players? Or are the Broncos just that ineffective? Remember their passing game was a struggle bus most of last season as well. Maybe Sean Payton isn’t the answer after all.

Look-ahead to Week 2:

For that reason, this is the unit I’ll be watching most closely against the Chiefs. I’m really hoping Clark can deliver a repeat performance and potentially claim the CB2 job across from Marco Wilson. And can someone from the Hamilton/Matthew/Hairson trio separate themselves? (You can throw Kris Boyd in there as well.) We’d better hope so with Garrett Williams still recovering and Rashad Fenton landing on IR. The battle for the final safety spot will be worth monitoring as well.

Final Thoughts

I was mostly impressed by this team’s preseason debut overall. The offense struggled at times but put up points when it needed to, and Gannon made a couple gambles that paid off. The defense looked surprisingly solid as well. You can’t take away too much from a single preseason game, but this one went about as well as could be hoped.

What were your main takeaways, RotBers? What will you be watching for against the Chiefs? Do your thing in the comments.