A good night for the pass protection

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2013 – 3:13 pm

The Cardinals did a good job hooking up on big-chunk passes Friday night in Green Bay. That was in no small part of the pass protection. From Bruce Arians’ scheme to Steve Keim’s personnel additions to the coaching of the line from Harold Goodwin and Larry Zerlein, the Cardinals’ line did a very nice job.

To that end, I re-watched the first portion of the Cardinals’ offensive line play. As Arians noted, it seemed like the quarterbacks stayed pretty clean. After a look back on the plays in which the starting offensive linemen played – which took the Cards through both touchdowns they scored – proved Arians (and most of us watching) right. Here are the plays and how they went. The starters were, from left tackle to right tackle, Levi Brown, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika and Eric Winston.


1st and 10, AZ 20 – Carson Palmer fades to pass, the Packers rush five. The pocket is perfect. LT Brown has no trouble dealing with Packers star Clay Matthews. Palmer hits Michael Floyd with an 18-yard throw.

3rd and 6, AZ 42 – After two runs, Palmer is the shotgun. The Packers rush four. Again, no pressure. Again, Brown deals easily with Matthews. Palmer launches a bomb to Andre Roberts. Despite no pressure, the ball is slightly underthrown and that allows the defender to catch up to Roberts. Roberts still had a chance to catch the ball.


1st and 10, AZ 1 – Brown had been called for a false start, but the Cards were so close to their own goal line after their defensive stand the penalty was officially for zero yards. Arians calls for a play-action pass. Left guard Cooper pulls to the backside, somewhat risky given the spot on the field. After the fake, the Packers end up rushing only three with two other defenders backing out quickly to guard against the short stuff. Amazingly, it is wide receiver Michael Floyd, asked to stay in for protection, who locks up with Matthews. Even better, Floyd handles Matthews to a draw. Again, Palmer has plenty of time and space. He drills a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald for a 17-yard gain.

2nd and 9, AZ 19 – After another run, the Cards run a middle screen to Fitz in the slot. The Cards allow some pressure on the four-man rush as center Sendlein and right guard Fanaika jump out immediately to try and get some second-level blocks. The Cards get a modest four yards on the play.

3rd and 5, AZ 23 – Another four man rush. Matthews tries to stunt by looping from the far right side all the way inside. The Cardinals do a good job watching him as he is passed off responsibility-wise from Brown to Cooper to Sendlein. Brown does a nice job catching defensive end B.J. Raji on the hard push after Matthews leaves his sight. Palmer throws another long pass to Floyd. It’s incomplete and it doesn’t matter anyway. Floyd is called for offensive pass interference.


1st and 10, GB 38 – Following a Patrick Peterson interception, Arians goes for the jugular. Packers rush four and bring a fifth blitzer on a delay. Tight end Rob Housler, staying in to block, is prepared for the blitzer. Brown, Cooper and Sendlein all handle their men one-on-one. There’s a late chip on Matthews by the running back to help Brown, but it didn’t matter at that point. Matthews wasn’t going to get there, and Palmer was already delivering a 38-yard touchdown pass to Roberts on his final play of the game.


2nd and 8, 50 – The Cardinals had gotten the ball back on a John Abraham strip-sack. A run on first down got two yards. With backup quarterback Drew Stanton in the game, Arians calls for a play-action pass. Cooper and Fanaika remain in the game with new center Mike Gibson, left tackle Nate Potter and right tackle Bobby Massie. Packers rush four. Cooper pulls to right to take the edge rusher, and he has trouble getting over to make much of a difference. Gibson also fails to pick up his inside rusher heading into the gap Cooper vacated at left guard. Still, Stanton steps up in the pocket slightly right had has plenty of time to fire to wide-open tight end D.C. Jefferson. Jefferson ends up dropping the pass when he is hit on a play that should have picked up another 15 yards or so.

3rd and 8, 50 – Stanton in shotgun. The Packers rush five – three up front, and bring two linebackers after a brief delay. Potter and Massie easily handle their responsibilities, and Stanton has the perfect pocket. He completes a long pass to wide receiver Charles Hawkins for a 36-yard gain.

2nd and 7, GB 11 – After a run, the Packers rush four. Massie is in trouble from the start and ends up falling down on the rush by defensive end Mike Daniels. But Fanaika manages to jump back to help get a chip on Daniels, giving Stanton enough time to step up and complete an 8-yard pass to Hawkins.

2nd and G, GB 1 – After a two-yard run, Stanton runs play-action with both teams featuring goal line packages. Pressure isn’t a variable as Stanton lofts a pass to an open Jefferson in the end zone. Not a great pass, but Jefferson also needs to find a way to make such plays.

3rd and G, GB 1 – Again, with the Packers committing to the line and surging forward with eight, Stanton takes a quick drop and renders the rush moot with a quick back-shoulder lob to receiver Jaron Brown, covered one-on-one in the end zone. Brown makes the one-yard TD catch.

Again, the run blocking will need to be improved and will also likely be aided when starter Rashard Mendenhall is on the field. But the pass protection certainly gave the Cardinals and Palmer something to be encouraged about as the season begins.

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33 Responses to “A good night for the pass protection”

  1. By Nick Pepe on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    I thought it was a very good start, especially since there were no “I -words”!!!

    Something to build on.

    Nick Pepe
    Lifetime Member

  2. By hummer53 on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    Good stuff Darren. Thanks. I can still see bringing in Centers, TE’s and WR’s after early cuts for a look see. Maybe even trade one of our corners for a position of need.

  3. By CDJ on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    i gotta say, i love that we went right for the TD after the PP interception, thats something i dont think we really ever tried to do under whis

  4. By jeffgollin on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    Great analysis, Darren. Keep more stuff like this coming…

  5. By Scott H on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    Hey, now, THAT makes me happy! Am REALLY looking forward to seeing what this secondary can do with these amazing playmakers on the field together. And it seems likely we will be seeing some special teams highlights as well. The Honey Badger may be the best pick ANYONE got in this year’s draft!

    Nice to see Palmer connecting with the WR’s down the fiield. Can’t do that if you don’t have time to set and throw. Not going off the deep end after one pre-season game, but there was a lot of good we can take from this one.

  6. By Andy Kw on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    This is what I saw in the first preseason game:
    -Good Pass Protection by Eric Winston, Levi Brown and the entire Offensive Line.
    -Stepfan Taylor impressed as a rookie coming out of 2 back to back 1000yd rushing seasons with Stanford
    -Our Quarterbacks did well. QB Carson Palmer shined in his first 3 drives. The under thrown ball definitely was in reach by Andre Roberts but still a pretty decent outing by the veteran QB. Drew Stanton was effective as well and our second year QB Ryan Lindley was okay, he just needs a little more consistency.
    -Patrick Peterson, as usual, shows his fantastic abilities to cause turnovers.
    -Tyrann Mathieu was in beast mode which was impressive and John Abraham still has some power left in the tank.
    -Our Defense was much more aggressive at the run so nice job by the Cardinals.
    -That deep ball thrown by Aaron Rodgers to James Jones for a gain of 50yds was the fault of CB Antoine Cason. So right now, Jerraud Powers is winning the battle. We cannot duplicate the struggles we had when we had William Gay.
    -Our Rushing game was not that great as Alfonzo Smith struggled. Our Offensive Line needs to improve.

  7. By Thomas77 on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    I liked what I saw out of the O-line and from what little we saw from Palmer. King Coopa (Jonathon Cooper) seems to have really helped to shore up the blind side. Although, I don’t believe Greenbay really threw what they had at that offensive line. Seeing Levi handle Clay Matthews was encouraging. But then seeing Floyd handle Matthews fairly well also, says one of two things; either Matthews has actually lost a step, or they didn’t force the issue, probably to avoid unnecessary injuries. So while I was happy to see the line protect as well as they did…the real deal ain’t until September 8th, baby!

  8. By Chuck 1 on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    As I recall, there were moans and groans when BA chose Bowles for his DC e.g. Horton should have been kept as DC (a risky move since he didn’t get the HC job) or Bowles didn’t do a good job in Philly (see the Eagles record) etc.

    If you check the scores of the 1st week of preseason games, how many teams did NOT score any points (pending the outcome of Sunday’s game)???
    That’s correct.
    One team.
    That was the Green Bay Packers.
    And, which team shut them out?
    Todd Bowles Cardinals’ Defense.

    Nuff said.

    I realize that it’s only the first preseason game.
    However, it is a good indicator.

  9. By georgiebird on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    One of the better Cards’ exhibition games in a long, long time. It’s a short body of work, but Arians seems to be the most insightful HC since Coryell. And to think that most people were backing Ray Horton. Arians just sees things no one else does.
    Michael Bidwill deserves a lot of credit for bucking public opinion and making Arians the HC.

  10. By truths4all on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    Don’t know what 4th quarter some viewers saw regarding Lindley’s play or why they sugar-coated his performance, but he only passed one ball that was on the money. The rest were short, long, or way off. Remember his first reception where the receiver was running a seam route and had to dive hard forward for that short and away ball? Sure Palmer and Stanton did not pass every ball perfectly, but most of theirs were on the money right to the receivers while Lindley’s only had one pass that was right to the receiver while the rest of his passes were off requiring the receivers to make really exceptional plays to bring the passes in.

    In contrast, Lindley looked more like Green Bay’s reserve QBs who played very spotty when compared to with Palmer and Stanton.

    BTW Skelton haters, he posted a perfect QB rating for his 4th quarter play passing to Bengal reserve receivers fro 72 yards against Atlanta’s reserves. And he did this while still learning how to execute a West Coast offense.

  11. By georgiebird on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    Skelton was mistreated big time by the frustrated Whiz’ group. I hope he does well, For a young guy coming from a small college and playing for a mediocre team and a bad coach, Skelton’s accomplishments are truly remarkable. He’s probably not a franchise QB but he has a lot of good qualities that teammates appreciate.

  12. By John The Draft Guy on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    Nice job Darren,

    QBs stepping up and standing in the pocket. Porter and Massie look so much better with a QB who steps up vs a QB who leaves the pocket on any hint of pressure.

    I knew how Palmer plays, but was really surprised by Stanton. He has been well coached.

    I also really like Fanaika. What happens when Colledge comes back?

    Finally, Watford was a disappointment. Not sure he makes this team. He better show up against Dallas.

  13. By NYCardinals on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    Thorough analysis without a decimal point, how can that be? Excellent job Darren. I really appreciate it.

  14. By Jerrytown on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    This was a great write up Darren, thanks for the detailed play by play. Living in Denver, I don’t get to watch any of the preseason games (not included in the Ticket), so it would be awesome if you could do something like this for the other three games too. Maybe spotlight a different unit in each? I’m very pleased to hear that our line is showing so much improvement. If they keep up the good play, it could set the table for a very potent offense this season. Stoked!

  15. By Darren Urban on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    jerrytown —

    RE: Missing preseason

    At risk of sounding like a shill, this is always an option …

  16. By Dynosoar on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    joe 67,

    I know, I know. I see pre-season as a scrimage game. As much as I liked what I saw, it’s still just a scrimage. But I can’t help salivating at the idea of 23-0 and I know in a few weeks or more ther’ll be a loss so it’s not probable, but it’s still possible.

    It was an exciting game to watch, scrimage or no.


    If you can get it, NFL network is showing all 65 pre-season games at least once, some games (like the Seahawks) up to 3 times. Good luck.

    John the draft guy,

    Thanks for your thoughts on Wilson. As soon as I saw him in there I perked up to see if he would show us what you liked about him. He looked like he will be a good QB (better than I saw for the last few years on our team) if/when he cools his nerves at being in an NFL game. I think you’ll like what you see when he adjusts to the spotlight.

    Well, 16 teams are now on pace to go 23-0. I remember a year the Patriots lost all pre-season games and lost only one game the entire season (too bad for them the game they lost was the SB) and a Lions team that went 4-0 in pre-season and lost more games than in their franchises history and drafted Stanton the next year.

    Our first win, I loved it! Let’s have some more, a lot more.

  17. By jason on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    Skelton wasn’t mistreated…he just wasn’t ready to be a starting QB. Did he have potential? Of course. He showed incredible potential during the course of a game and especially in some of those comeback wins in 2011. I remember the Bengals game when the finally was able to get into a groove he played amazing and would’ve won that game had he made a better throw and/or Doucet could’ve stayed on his feet. The problem was that Skelton fans thought he was better than he was and just spouted blind adulation about him while assigning all his faults to Whisenhut. Skelton was not and is not ready to be a quality NFL starter and that isn’t me being a hater it is a fact. He is currently third on the Bengals depth chart, he played against the Falcon’s scrubs and it was reported that was the best he has looked all through training camp. He has 17 starts in the NFL so having a great preseason game against a bunch of guys fighting to make a roster is expected..not a statement that his time in Arizona was cut short because the “hater” didn’t give him a chance.

  18. By John The Draft Guy on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply


    If you read anything I wrote, you know I thought we have had no QBs over the last 3 years. But I am not alone. Here is what Campbell said;

    “I think it’s very likely we can win the division, yes,” Campbell told’s Mike Freeman. “I respect every opponent in our division. Every one. But I think of it this way. We were able to hang in a bunch of our division games without a real quarterback.

    “I don’t want to disrespect anyone but now we have a real quarterback to go with a good defense. When we play with a lead, we’re hard to beat. This is the first time in years that we have an offense that matches our defense.”

    The players knew it. Heck Kolb wasn’t close to a real QB. His performance was almost as bad as his injuries. He got hurt walking to practice for the Bills. Yes, you heard that right, walking to practice he hurt his knee. Skelton will be lucky to play another down in the NFL.

    I totally agree with you Calais. This game really showed how bad the past QBs were. Hopefully all the fans of Kolb and Skelton got an eyefull of what a real QB looks like.

  19. By Kevin S on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    Love him or hate him, guess it will be a while before we stop talking about Skelton here. But let’s face it, the guy who we anointed as our #1 guy going into last year is now battling for a #2 spot, and it may be a stretch for him to get even that (Josh Johnson also played well, leading the Bengals to 17 points; passing #’s weren’t gaudy but he also led the Bengals with 64 rushing yards). I like rooting for the underdog and hope he does stick somewhere as a #2 or #3 guy, but that’s all he ever should have been here as well. 5 4th quarter preseason passes shouldn’t make anyone overlook the 600 regular season passes he threw here.

  20. By Kevin S on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    Dynosoar —

    Some things never change. Team looks good in a preseason game and here you are salivating at the thought of 23-0. At least you’re consistent.

  21. By SeeingRed on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    Cards looked pretty darn good-great initial start for this new era….

    “Banging with Mr (Jonathan) Cooper” looked good. Was really interested to see how he would hold up and he does indeed look and play the part of a 1st round pick. Very athletic for a big guy- Still real early though.

    DC Jefferson looked very Leonard Pope-ish. Needs to up his game big time.

    Honey Badger looked like a honey badger…love this guy. Fast becoming my favorite player. Still early though.

    Here’s hoping we can stay relatively healthy through preseason.

  22. By SeeingRed on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    Have we cut Baston yet? Well, I guess he deserves another chance but c’mon kid…

  23. By jason on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply


    I agree that we haven’t had a QB in three years and I did read the Campbell interview and I think it is telling that the team knew we didn’t have a QB. I don’t blame the previous regime for going after Kolb or the trade they made, even though at the time I thought we were giving up too much for him….hindsight being 20/20 we gave up WAY too much for him. Kolb had some moments here and I think if we had a solid offensive line and running game (and if he didn’t have such a hard time staying healthy) he could’ve had more success, but he wasn’t/isn’t a good NFL QB. At the time of the trade he did have the tape to give us reason to believe he had the ability to be one so that is why I applauded the move to get him it just didn’t pan out. Getting Palmer for basically nothing is just one of the reason’s I have loved Keim’s offseason moves and have the confidence that we might have a front office guy that can turn us into perennial winners. I’m quietly confident that we are going to be significantly improved this season but I believe whatever this season holds for us we have a bright future with Keim as our GM.

  24. By dieselbomb on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    This win shows a couple things about the fans who comment after articles :

    A) We’ve had to wait for something good to happen for way, way, way too long.

    B) Two guys who are real QB’s have shown us what we’ve been missing for over three years.

    Okay, I’ll add C) –

    Whether it was KWarner/THaley or just KWarner – the previous coaching staff were NOT the reason the Cardinals made it to the Superbowl.

    Fans have been punished enough; we’re on the verge of something pretty darn good from the combination of a justified Front Office shake-up, a completely new coaching staff and a range of player dismissals and new player acquisitions.

    We now see hope –

  25. By Chuck 1 on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    For those who continue to pan Skelton, let’s remember who were responsible for him being a Card: Graves and Whiz.

    They never should have drafted the kid.

    And, the same goes for Lindley.

    That duo (Graves and Whiz) put the QB position in a hole for two years.

    Oh, and did I mention DA? That’s three years of QB disaster.

  26. By Scott H on Aug 11, 2013 | Reply

    Not sure why we’re talking about Skelton or Kolb anymore at this point. But I’ll say this – regardless of what Carson Palmer is or is not at this point, he IS a legit QB and we have not had one of those since Warner left town. Only 3 seasons ago, yet it seems like an eternity. And sinec he IS a legit QB and the no-doubt-about-it starter for this team, we DO NOT have to endure a camp / pre-season full of Derek Anderson vs Matt Leinart or Kevin Kolb vs John Skelton ( which we had to endure twice ). My God, that was SOOOO damn painful. There is nothing worse that having a “competition” where neither guy can out-play the other and you KNOW neither one is good enough, anyway.

    Once Warner hung it up, that’s what it was every year under Whisenhunt and his staff. I am SOOOO glad those days are over.

  27. By Eazy E on Aug 12, 2013 | Reply

    The offensive line did a pretty good job but a lot of y’all are ridiculous. Clay didn’t get handled by Levi, he was only in a handful of plays and just because he blocked him for one play one on one doesn’t mean he had a come to Jesus revelation ”offensive line edition”. They didn’t have their #1 pick in datone jones on the d-line along with nick perry their other 1st pick from 2012 at olb opposite clay. So let’s not go overboard and embellish, Levi is a 5th overall pick even though he got overdrafted by a mile obviously, then and now. They also didn’t have their top cbs in Tramon Williams and Sam Shields playing. So we can’t just put us in the super bowl just because of a shutout in the PRESEASON! Running game needs work on opening up holes because stepfan and alfonso ran hard and all but stepfan seemed like he was the only one going anywhere and it seemed like more of him than the o-line.

  28. By Kevin S on Aug 12, 2013 | Reply

    Unfortunately Scott H, in going out and getting Kolb 2 years ago, the Cards thought they were doing what they have now done in getting Palmer — they went out and got one of (what was thought to be) the best QB’s available. Difference this year being, it’s a proven starter, not another team’s backup who people thought had starting potential (although for a while it looked like that’s where we were going to be with Stanton). Nice to have a reason to be optimistic for a change.

  29. By Kevin S on Aug 12, 2013 | Reply

    Chuck 1 — yes, the problem of trying to find a QB diamond in the rough with a 5th and a 6th round pick… neither of whom should ever have seen the light of day in an NFL game as early as they did, if ever.

  30. By John The Draft Guy on Aug 12, 2013 | Reply

    Easy E

    Same can be said about the packer offense with Jordy Nelson and I think Cobb out. The Packers are going to be really good when all on the field for 60 minutes. We all know that.

    But, you block who is there and you cover who is there. Thats all you can do. And with that, Levi did a nice job. But I will say again, the QBs stepped up in the pocket allowing Levi either to take his guy wide or his guy had to bullrush or use an inside move. Levi did a nice job preventing anyone to beat him inside.

    Funny, looking at Floyd’s block on Clay, Clay did try to go inside, Floyd had a nice initial pop and then rode him inside. Palmer ever so slightly slide to the left to hit Fitz.

    Its nice having a real QB

  31. By jason on Aug 12, 2013 | Reply

    Easy E-

    I understand your sentiment. Levi Brown has not lived up to being a top 5 draft pick, nor has he played a full season of competent LT for the Cardinals, so getting overly excited about one quarter of one preseason game and anointing him as “elite” is too much. However, you’re wrong to say that he didn’t handle Clay Matthews during the snaps they faced each other in this game. Again, I know a quarter of pre-season when there’s no exotic blitz packages doesn’t make a season, but it is the first steps of the season, and why shouldn’t fans be happy to see that Levi passed his first test? It doesn’t matter who else was on the field because you are specifically criticizing Levi and he didn’t allow a sack or a QB pressure during his time in the game and that is a win for him and us. I don’t know why you’re dwelling on his draft status anyways…he is no longer on his rookie contract so it’s a moot point. He played well enough down the stretch in 2011 to earn a new contract and probably signed for less to stay with the Cardinals. He is a hard worker, has shown improvement and has the opportunity to be a solid LT for us this season. Why do you hate on that? Everyone knows that in a re-draft Levi wouldn’t go anywhere near top 5 but this is real life and there is no reset button….we can’t go back and draft AP, it’s like the Soprano’s…IT’S OVER! Find another show.

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