Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Getty)
While the first-team didn’t see action for long, it was enough time for Matt Leinart to make a statement. His arm is still accurate and he’s learned some new footwork. Leinart used some unfamiliar weapons to get the job done Thursday. But when it was time for him to hang up his helmet in place of the backups, he ended up with a 24-10 loss on his hands. Here's what worked and what didn't.
--Matt Leinart felt good and looked the part. Footwork was a big emphasis for Leinart in the offseason. His hard work seems to have paid off. Leinart checked out of the match after he guided the Cardinals out of their early 7-0 deficit.
--Steve Breaston’s play will put a good word in for his own cause. He is looking to get out of the special teams grind and get in the limelight of being the Cardinals No. 3 guy. Breaston did a great job getting in the open space and cleared 34 yards on a pass from Leinart to close out the first quarter. He earned a handful of big pickups and finished off his Thursday campaign with 50 yards, good for a team-high.
--At the start of the second quarter, Leinart called up RB Tim Hightower. The rookie got his first NFL run in and lived up to the buzz. Hightower was put to work at first and goal. Fans got to see his speed to the outside when he scored the touchdown that put the Cardinals back in contention, after trailing 7-0. The end zone celebration allowed Neil Rackers to even up the score 7-7 in the beginning of the second quarter. Hightower was expected to get in a lot of reps on Thursday, and the Cardinals were true to their word as he embodied the ground game. Hightower closed out the match with 23 yards on five carries and a touchdown.
Hightower and Leinart have to give some credit to fullback Terrelle Smith who was the difference maker in their drive to scoring territory. He got the play started when he received a pass from Leinart and bullied his way to the 1-yard line. Hightower came up behind him and cleaned up the play, good for the touchdown.
--Kenny Iwebema did what his veteran teammates couldn’t do in 20 minutes; Iwebema got not only the first sack of the game, but his first personal sack in the big league. He’ll never forget the name Mark Brunell, who Iwebema pummeled to the ground, even if it’s just preseason.
--The Cardinals headed into the break up three points, 10-7.
--Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie put critics to rest showing his physicality early on with a pair of aggressive tackles.
--Joe Tafoya never gave the Saints a chance toward the end of the third quarter when he pinned down their quarterback, he registered four tackles.
--Chris Harrington nearly picked off the Saints in his debut for the Cardinals.
--Outside linebacker Ali Highsmith had a good showing. He led the team with six tackles.
--Despite using plenty of offseason monies and efforts in order to build the defense, the unit as a whole got trampled on in the game’s opening drive. The Saints took 13 plays to lift them up 7-0.
--Leinart showed composure in the pocket during his first drive. On the third snap for the Cardinals, Leinart gave time to WR Jamaica Rector to get open, which was good for a 23-yard play. The drive ended on a sour note though, on his fifth play he was sacked by Mark Simoneau.
Leinart isn’t all to blame. Levi Brown did a horrible job of occupying the linebacker. The play ended with a punt from Dirk Johnson, who wasn’t impressive with his first punt in red.
--The Cardinals’ football IQ has to get better. Their defense posted three penalties during the first drive of the game, giving up the easy yards is not going to cut it for a team that won’t settle for .500 in 2008.
--Leonard Pope had a dense penalty in the red zone. The Cardinals registered five penalties in 18 minutes, which gave away 35 yards. Oliver Celestin added on to the penalties in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals would finish with eight penalties, which gave the Saints 70 yards.
--Saints’ defensive back Aaron Glenn and Breaston had a bit of extracurricular play when the two got in a small shoving match. Breaston upset Glenn and the 15-year veteran didn’t have any patience for Breaston, so he hit him in the back of his helmet.
--The Cardinals almost stuffed the Saints’ 1-yard touchdown as Aaron Stecker went over the pile, but Stecker got the best of the play. A precise boot lifted the Saints up 14-10.
--Anthony Morelli looked like a fish out of water in his first NFL matchup. He threw an incomplete pass, and then he was taken down by two defenders. There is no doubt that Morelli felt the impact of the sack as Marvin Mitchell and James Reed split the proceedes. He would finally pick up a couple yards with a pass to Steve Baylark and ended his play with 13 yards on six attempts.
--The Cardinals couldn’t regain their ground as the game finished 24-10 in the Saints’ favor.
The Cardinals will round out their preseason play with three AFC West matchups. Leinart and crew will first head to Kansas City and take on the Chiefs on Saturday, Aug. 16. A trip to Oakland to square off against the raiders will follow and the Cardinals will host the Denver Broncos before the preseason is over and the final roster takes shape.
The key moving forward is to continue buying what Ken Whisenhunt is selling. Bertrand Berry told ESPN that he can’t remember any other team that he’s played on that has a deeper roster. The tools are there, it’s just about using them correctly.
“You have to make sure you are on your P’s and Q’s every time you step on the field,” Berry said.
A solid preseason appearance could be the momentum the Cardinals need heading into the games that count.