The way Carson Palmer threw the ball Friday night was good. So was the way backup Drew Stanton did, for that matter. But what may have been the most promising of all for the Cardinals was the way the pass protection held up.
“There were some great pockets to throw in,” Palmer said.
This all has the usual caveats. It was the preseason. The Packers weren’t coming with a complex package. Yet that didn’t help a ton in the preseason last year when the Cards struggled. I thought the first unit (Brown-Cooper-Sendlein-Fanaika-Winston) did very well. The Cards are smart too. On a 17-yard Palmer-to-Fitz pass from their own 1 early in the game, Michael Floyd was in – and then stayed in the backfield to help with protection. Palmer was clean.
Palmer wasn’t touched in his short stint. Stanton was a couple of times (his lone sack was of the coverage variety) but he also Russell-Wilsoned himself out of trouble a couple of times. Everything tonight comes with the “It’s early in the preseason” sticker attached. But a team with consistent pass protection? That’s something to embrace.
— The running game wasn’t as effective. That will be something that needs improvement. But Bruce Arians was just thankful the Cards got through with just two healthy running backs. Rashard Mendenhall didn’t play, and Andre Ellington sat too. Stepfan Taylor and Alfonso Smith was all the Cards had.
— The offense is going to get the spotlight. That’s natural after the season the unit had last year. But the defense, under scrutiny itself with the
Horton-to-Todd Bowles coordinator change, played well. Two turnovers led to two touchdowns, which is how Bowles wants it to go. And preseason or not, the Packers didn’t score, which is the best you can do.
“It’s a good starting point for us,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I’m sure we didn’t play nearly as good as we could have, I’m sure there was a lot of mistakes on film. That’s football and the preseason. It does show us how good we can be.”
— You don’t want to go overboard on any player in the preseason. And a rookie has a long way to go. But what’s the No. 1 thing you want to see out of a player – especially a rookie? You want to see them , if they were showing you good things in practice, to show those things in a game. Tyrann Mathieu did that.
His stat line was gaudy: Two tackles, one for loss, a sack, a quarterback hit, a pass breakup, a pass breakup, two special teams and a 26-yard punt return. He also thought he had a chance at an interception and didn’t look thrilled Packers receiver Myles White grabbed him to mess with that possibility. You don’t want to go overboard, but a very, very impressive debut.
— Patrick Peterson tweeted about his protégé: “Proud of my baby boy @Mathieu_Era doing great things in his first @NFL game. Can’t wait till Sept. 8
— Not to be outdone, though, Peterson made sure to get his own interception in his brief stint, leading to the Cards’ first TD.
— Arians said he gave the receiving corps a C grade. He poked fun at Andre Roberts a little for not catching the first bomb from Palmer (to be fair, it also hit off the DB) but Roberts atoned with his TD. Jaron Brown and Charles Hawkins did well, I thought, although Brown had a drop he can’t make and Hawkins fumbled the ball on a long reception (he got it back but the fumble probably cost him a chance at a bigger play.)
— John Abraham didn’t play much at all, but he managed a strip-sack of Graham Harrell in his brief time in the game. You sign a guy to rush the passer and you get that out of the gate. “Doing that just helps the team out and helps them see that I have a little something left,” Abraham said.
— The only injury reported by Arians was a hip pointer for rookie tight end D.C. Jefferson, who twice couldn’t hang on to passes he should have – including one in the end zone. Arians isn’t going to let him forget about that. He told the media about the hip pointer, and then added “that’s what happens when you drop big touchdowns.”
— Arians was irritated at the offensive issues in terms of substituting and getting lined up, something that really affected the younger players. That will have to be cleaned up. Timeouts were burned too often.
There’s probably more I could say, but it’s late, there’s a long plane ride ahead and I’ll have time to hit on more over the next few days. As Palmer said, “it’s a small step.”
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Charles Hawkins, D.C. Jefferson, Drew Stanton, Jaron Brown, John Abraham, offensive line, Packers, Patrick Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall, Stepfan Taylor, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu
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