Tim Hightower (Getty)
The Arizona Cardinals suffered their second loss of the preseason, falling to the San Diego Chargers 17-6. While the Cardinals’ offense was once again held in check, the team’s defense and special teams both showed signs of life. Brad Wilbricht dissects Arizona’s Week 2 preseason performance and updates the recent happenings in the desert.
One of the main bright spots from Saturday’s matchup against San Diego was the Cardinals’ relentless pass rush. Arizona’s first team defense racked up four sacks in the first quarter of play. Chargers QB Philip Rivers did manage to connect on 5-of-7 passes for 116 yards but was under constant duress during his limited time on the field.
Although the Cardinals’ pass rush was impressive early on, that success didn’t translate to the secondary. Rivers experienced little difficulty finding openings in coverage and backup Billy Volek faired even better. Volek completed 6-of-7 passes for 66 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown strike to WR Legedu Naanee.
Despite the positives surrounding Bill Davis’ defensive unit, Arizona rookie LB Cody Brown is expected to miss the 2009 season due to a wrist injury. Brown’s absence leaves the door open for returning veterans such as Clark Haggans and Bertrand Berry. Both are capable players and will need to continue to produce in the latter years of their career.
On offense, RB Tim Hightower continues to push for the starting position in the backfield. Rookie RB Chris Wells has yet to see the field and his abilities in a game situation at the NFL level are still unknown. Meanwhile, Hightower averaged nearly five yards per carry, rushing for 42 yards on nine carries.
QB Kurt Warner was unimpressive for the second time in as many weeks but there is little concern regarding the veteran signal caller. The battle for the second-string quarterback spot is clearly moving in favor of Matt Leinart following another solid outing paired with another off-night by Brian St. Pierre.
St. Pierre finished just 6-of-15 for 79 yards and tossed an interception. His command on the offense has been suspect and St. Pierre will likely be relegated to third string entering the regular season. Leinart showed flashes of what made him a former first-round draft selection, completing 6-of-10 passes for 74 yards.
It’s no secret Arizona deployed one of the worst special teams units in the league a year ago, but things are shaping up differently in 2009. Rookie RB LaRod Stephens-Howling all but secured a roster spot after a tremendous performance in the return game. Stephens-Howling returned two kickoffs for 152 yards, including a long of 89 yards.
The Cardinals’ kick coverage units were unable to duplicate Stephens-Howling night but it came against one of the more elusive runners in the NFL. Chargers RB Darren Sproles averaged over 26 yards per kickoff return and 12 yards on two punt returns. Arizona gave up valuable field position last year and must correct the issue with two games remaining in the preseason.
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