With two weeks of training camp in the books, the Cardinals had a general idea of what areas needed the most work. However, those areas may have shifted following the preseason opener. Two of the biggest concerns heading into 2010 have been inside linebacker and cornerback. You probably wouldn’t have guessed that after watching Saturday’s game against the Houston Texans.
Rookie LB Daryl Washington single handily carried Arizona's linebacking corps on his back throughout the game. Washington was all over the field, totaling 13 tackles while adding a fumble recovery and pass deflection. In addition to Washington, Paris Lenon displayed adequate speed in pursuit and held his own in limited action. Pago Togafau also showed promise after making several big plays, including a forced fumble at the goal line.
At cornerback, Justin Miller was beaten badly by Houston wideout Andre Johnson for a long touchdown. No offense to Miller, but that would probably happen eight out of 10 times as Johnson is a top flight receiver in the NFL. The Cardinals are hoping Greg Toler continues to develop into a starter and he is beginning to look the part. Toler missed a couple of tackles in run support but was excellent in coverage, particularly in one-on-one situations. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted to see how players performed on an island and Toler passed the test for the time being.
The same can’t be said for the offensive line as the first-team unit struggled. Brandon Keith and Alan Faneca both made blunders leading to sacks and a fumble while Levi Brown is still lacking a dominate attitude. Quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson were unable to get in a rhythm, partially because of the breakdowns along the offensive line. A look at the game tape will show the true results upfront, but as of now the offensive line might have taken over as the team’s biggest question mark.
Even with the loss of Anquan Boldin, Arizona’s wide receivers were expected to be a major strength. However, aside from Larry Fitzgerald the position may need some work. Current No. 2 Steve Breaston is best known for his work in the slot and it’s uncertain whether that success will translate on the perimeter. Third-round pick Andre Roberts had a tough night and continues to have difficulty catching the ball. Roberts was targeted nine times but came down with just two catches.
While Roberts isn’t producing as a third-round draft pick, fellow rookie WR Stephen Williams is bailing him out. Williams has been a standout performer during practice and did enough on Saturday to keep that momentum going. Williams reeled in a 20-yard pass from John Skelton during the Cards’ fourth quarter comeback, showing off his tremendous hands in the process. Skelton made a perfect throw and Williams held on despite a penalty for a hit on a defenseless receiver. Later in the drive Williams drew a pass interference call, moving the ball inside the 10-yard line.
During that fourth quarter comeback, Skelton was front and center. Skelton has been criticized for being lackadaisical in practice but his preseason debut was nothing short of amazing. The poise and awareness Skelton showed in the pocket was just as impressive as his 158.3 QB rating, even if it was against Houston’s third-team defense. On the game-winning touchdown, Skelton looked like a veteran selling the play fake as he dumped it off to RB Jason Wright who scampered in for the score.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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