The Arizona Cardinals preseason started off on a good note with a 34-17 win over the Chargers. Despite this, there were still plenty of troublesome moments from the game fans will be focusing on as they go into their second game. The offense struggled mightily outside of David Johnson, increasing the worry that this team may not have enough talent on offense. Anyone who saw the offensive line allow free rushers, or a backup center skipping snaps to Josh Rosen, has a right to that thought.
Preseason is tricky. It is hard to evaluate a team playing backups and running basic schemes. It is not hard to evaluate effort and the offensive line was pathetic in that regard last week. The defensive line, however, is the opposite side of the story. From the starters through the reserves, the defense fought and created issues for Los Angeles.
With the upcoming preseason tilt against the New Orleans Saints, here’s what to watch for to gauge the improvement of Arizona through the Cardinals preseason.
What to Watch For: Defensive Consistency
Cap Capi may have finally found a home. After bouncing around six different practice squads since 2015, Capi finally had his coming out party. With three sacks and a forced fumble against the Chargers, don’t be surprised to see him play a bit more this week. The starting defensive line is dominant but if they can get a few more consistent contributors in the rotation, all the better. What fans really want to see is Robert Nkemdiche do something. All the potential has kept of the former first rounder has kept fans waiting but if he fails to materialize this season, his career is in jeopardy.
The defensive backfield played well in week one and Arizona needs to see more of that. Rookie corners Chris Campbell out of Penn State show he can be a part of the 53-man roster. Bene Benwikere and Patrick Peterson have the outsides locked down but one thing every defense needs is multiple options. Against a Saints’ attack that is deadly, this will be a good test. Drew Brees probably won’t get much time but backup Taysom Hill is no slouch in preseason games. New Orleans’ attack is going to be a much stiffer test here in week two.
What to Watch For: Passing Game Improvement
In the first game of the preseason, the Cardinals did next to nothing through the air. It wasn’t even the quarterbacks’ fault most of the time. No one is going to look good when their line allows someone to pass through them like a turnstile every play. The backups got a lot of the heat, and deservedly so, but the starters didn’t really have a chance to show they belong either. This team is going to miss A.Q. Shipley.
Josh Rosen didn’t have a great night looking at the numbers (6-for-13 for 41 yards) but many thought he passed the eye test. As stated above, there may not have been a play where he had a clean pocket. Some snaps were literally rolled to him while in the shotgun. The poor guy may not see a difference between his protection in Arizona and at UCLA. He made a few throws under pressure, and while being hit, that showed he belongs at the NFL level.
What fans really want to see is Sam Bradford for more than one series. Even if they don’t score, his presence may be able to inspire some confidence. It’s a dangerous game, however, to play an injury-prone QB behind maybe the worst line in the league. There’s no red jersey protecting you once you step into the game. The team needs to see him, though. After he takes his first hit, they’ll have a sigh of relief when (please not if) he gets back up.
Short shoutout to Chad Kanoff throwing his first touchdown pass last week. Nice play for the kid out of Princeton. His short amount of playing time should be enough to put him over Mike Glennon on the depth chart. As for Glennon, he hasn’t shown anything since he was in Tampa and needs to in order to stay in the league.
What to Watch For: Starters vs. Starters
Fans will obviously be hoping for more than one drive with the team’s starters in. New Orleans is a fantastic team and the more they can see against their top guys the better idea we will have on who the Cardinals really are. How does the defense contain Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Mike Thomas? How do David Johnson and Sam Bradford fare against Marshon Lattimore and the crew? Unfortunately, they probably won’t get as much as they’d like. Leaving a guy in too long to see an injury is just as bad for the coaches as the player.
What to Watch For: The Little Things
In the preseason, everything is a little thing. Most will be watching how Josh Rosen navigates the pocket. He moved well last week and made throws under duress. How the offense runs the two-minute drill and hurry-up offense would also add another element of confidence to that side of the ball. Bradford has always excelled in this category and Rosen should as well.
Defensive substitutions will be key. Who comes in first? How long do they play? Are they adjusting to situations or just letting the game play out? The reason to watch this is simple: it can give you a sense of how the coaches envision some of these backups playing. Last year, coaches used the preseason to gauge their trust in Budda Baker at safety so much they let Tyrann Mathieu walk out of the building and into Houston. These things start in the preseason.
Finally, run blocking. This line is better in the run game than the pass but they need to see some movement up front. David Johnson and Chase Edmonds can’t make someone miss in the backfield every play. If the line can get even a little bit of advantage against the defense, these backs can make something happen.