The Arizona Cardinals preseason opener started their season on a good note with a 24-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers thanks to a late goal-line stand. There were some encouraging signs from the defense, which showed talent and depth, with some unknowns coming through in a huge way. The offense didn’t show as much. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad with our biggest takeaways.
For reasons no one wanted, the biggest takeaways from this game focused on the passers. For all the talk of this reworked quarterback room, they put up next to nothing in their first game action. Sam Bradford threw all of one pass which went for six yards. No one expected him to stay in for very long, however, another drive or two may have helped the offense find a rhythm.
Josh Rosen struggled in his first action with a final stat line: 6-for-13 for 41 yards. It wasn’t entirely on the first-year passer, however. As expected, this offensive line was in shambles. Rookie center Mason Cole looked completely out of place, giving up rushes up the middle on a consistent basis. Due to this, there were only about four or five throws where Rosen was able to set his feet. As previously predicted, this offense can only go as far as this line can take them.
A pleasant surprise here was undrafted quarterback Chad Kanoff out of Princeton, who may have ensured Mike Glennon will not be a member of this team by the regular season. In limited time, Kanoff only threw five passes but completed three for 66 yards and a touchdown to Bryce Williams on his only catch of the day. Glennon, as expected, stunk it up late in the fourth quarter. He showed fans what they saw last year in Chicago going two-for-seven with an interception.
As bad as the Cardinals looked on offense, the defense looked just as good. The star of the night? Nordly “Cap” Capi from the University of Akron. Capi went undrafted (and unheard of) in 2015 and signed with the Jaguars out of college. He’s already played for the Jags, Ravens, Falcons, Giants, Cardinals, Bills and now he’s back in Arizona. Yes, in three years he’s bounced around six teams’ practice squads. In the Cardinals’ preseason opener, Capi was a madman. He tallied three sacks and a forced fumble on the night. Preseason is great for stories like his. He may have started his inroad to the 53-man roster.
Bene Benwikere hit hard throughout the night, causing a fumble. Rookie safety A.J. Howard out of Appalachian State had his first interception in the NFL. The defensive backs played well, but much of the credit has to go to the defensive line. They didn’t let the Chargers’ cadre of quarterbacks too much time in the pocket. New acquisitions Jamar Taylor from Cleveland and Tre Boston from the Chargers got some good play in as well, batting down a few balls.
Other takeaways from the defense: Haason Reddick had three tackles in his limited action, and looked like a real player while he was in there. Arizona nits it’s recent draft picks to start showing up, and Reddick looks like he can get there. The biggest encouragement on the night has to be the depth of this defensive unit. From the opening snap to the final whistle, it looks like the Cardinals’ defensive staff has performed as expected, getting their guys ready without much time.
In an ugly game for this offense, we may have been shown a peek as to how the Cardinals can find success this year: smash-mouth football. After years of a pass-first attack, the Cardinals simply don’t look like they can do that consistently. However, they have their ace in the hole on offense that can change how teams gameplan against them, and his name is David Johnson. In his first game action since his injury last year, the Cardinals were careful with him. After 28 yards on just two carries, they sat him down for the night, but fans saw what they needed to. DJ is back and ready to play. He looked as fast and strong as ever and boy will Arizona need him to be.
Chase Edmonds was also one of the bright spots for the Cards, reaching the end zone in his first action. The Fordham rookie runner twisted, turned and willed himself to a touchdown when it looked like he would be down at the four-yard line. Sure, in the regular season it may have been overturned, but it’s August.
For their woes in the passing game, the offensive line looked that bad in the run game. They didn’t get a huge push but the starters usually held their ground. It’s disappointing that the only weak part of this offense is the most important part of keeping a quarterback upright.
If the Cards can continue to pound the ball and play defense this soundly, they can shift their attention to fixing up the pass protection. It’s too late to bring in anyone of note that’s available, so the only answer is coaching up the players that are in-house. Expect Mason Cole to have a better performance as the weeks go on. It’s hard to remember that most players take time to develop, as we’re in the age of instant gratification, but it remains true.