Beanie Wells – The Redbirds’ workhorse back looked good in his season debut, tallying 75 yards on 14 carries. Wells showed no ill effects of the knee injury that kept him out of action the past two weeks. He broke a couple big runs, shedding tacklers and didn’t seem rusty in the least. This is encouraging for both Wells and the Cardinals’ offense in terms of production going forward.
Penalties – After being a black eye for the team in the first two weeks of the season, the Cards played more disciplined and focused, but still committed seven infractions for 104 yards. Some of the penalties called against Oakland could be considered bad officiating and poor judgment by individuals. Arizona forced the Raiders into 11 penalties for 123 yards, which often kept drives alive and proved to be a deciding factor in the outcome.
Offensive Line – The unit continued to struggle, often surrendering position, leaving running backs out to dry and forcing QB Derek Anderson to run for his life too often. With so much shuffling in the offseason, the line has yet to show much cohesion and, like the team as a whole, is still searching for its first complete game of the season. There is enough talent and experience in the trenches that the o-line can develop into a productive unit but it’s becoming difficult to predict when.
Big Plays – Another problem for much of the season, the defense continues to give up the big play at inopportune moments, while the offense still lacks the explosiveness of years past. Sunday, the Raiders had 10 plays of 15 yards or more that often led to scores. This has been a nagging problem for the Arizona defense of late, but has been neutralized by talented playmakers who force turnovers. This team doesn’t have this luxury and it is starting to show. The defense must become more fundamentally sound, particularly on third down.
Special Teams – You could put this in the “Ugly” category for both teams, but two of the most devastating plays for Arizona came on Oakland punts, when the offense was supposed to get the ball back. Miscues by Matt Ware and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gave the ball back to the Raiders with excellent field position, leading to field goals each time. This could have been worse, but the game could have gone in Oakland’s favor had they been able to capitalize further. Turnovers at crucial times have been a major problem this season and it must end immediately if the team is to go anywhere in 2010.
Derek Anderson – Arizona’s signal-caller was inconsistent once again, going 12 of 26 for 122 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Anderson had some moments, but struggled against the Raiders’ pass rush. Prior to Week 1, Anderson had tallied just a quarter and a half of work with the first-team offense, so an adjustment period should be expected. However, Anderson has continued along the same path and struggled to make adjustments to fit in Arizona’s offense. Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged Anderson’s struggles and would like to see some improvement from his quarterback, but doesn’t have a better option at this point.
The Redbirds came out of their home opener on top, but by the skin of their teeth. They must minimize their mistakes, grow from this experience and get back to work. With all of the new pieces on the roster and little work together as a whole, it is encouraging they can play badly and still win. Whisenhunt has taught this team how to win, even when their play is not at 100 percent.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52