Did Matt Leinart silence his critics? Did Arizona's running game get back on track? Why did coach Ken Whisenhunt leave John Skelton on the bench? These are just a few of the questions surrounding the Cardinals following their Monday night matchup in Tennessee.
The first-team offense continues to struggle and we know very little about its potential now heading into the third preseason game of the year. Starting QB Matt Leinart was seemingly non-existent as he did nothing of significance for the second consecutive week. Leinart finished 4 of 6 for 28 yards while the Arizona offense failed to make a first down with him under center.
The Cardinals’ offensive line has for the lack of a better term regressed. Whether it was during Leinart’s limited time or second stringer Derek Anderson’s, the Titans’ were consistently beating Arizona in the trenches. To his credit, Leinart hung in the pocket to complete a pass or two while Anderson had no choice but to do the same. Tennessee managed only one sack but racked up eight quarterback hits. Most of the damage came in the first half while the starters and top reserves were on the field.
On the flip side, the way the Titans’ offensive line dominated up front was almost equally as disappointing. Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and the starters held their own but once they exited it was a free for all. Tennessee accumulated 142 yards on the ground compared to just 65 yards for the Cardinals. For the second straight week, Arizona was held to under 70 yards rushing. The third quarter was the low point as newly signed Samkon Gado scored twice within a three-minute span.
The Cardinals’ two shining stars from the preseason opener were a pair of rookies, QB John Skelton and LB Daryl Washington. Skelton didn’t even play Monday while Washington was lost in the shuffle on defense. There’s been a great deal of disappointment relating to the quarterbacks’ play of late and Skelton’s performance a week ago energized the fan base. Although coach Ken Whisehunt wanted to ensure Max Hall saw the field, it was a puzzling decision to sit Skelton for the entirety of the game unless there’s something we don’t know about.
Meanwhile, expectations were high for Washington and while he didn’t exactly live up to those expectations, there’s no reason to worry. Washington still managed three tackles and knocked down the quarterback on one occasion. The Titans are a more physical team than what he saw against Houston and Washington's less than ideal strength was slightly exposed.
Monday night’s bright spots both came on offense as Hall put forth a solid effort and wideout Stephen Williams appears to be the real deal. Williams started opposite of Steve Breaston, reeling in three passes for 59 yards, including a 37-yard gain from Anderson. Williams ran crisp routes and was open more often than not during his eight targets. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, Williams may be Arizona’s best option to line-up on the perimeter with Breaston continuing to work in the slot.
Hall finished the game 7 of 15 for 101 yards and a touchdown. His lone mistake came on a bad throw into double coverage that resulted in an interception. While it was good to see Hall make the most of the playing time, his role on the team is still uncertain. Unless Hall beats on Skelton for the third spot, he’ll either be on the practice squad or with another team. Given those two outcomes, there was little incentive for Hall to receive as much time as he did while Skelton rode the pine.
Although it’s still very early, Arizona’s demeanor and attitude has to be a concern. For the better part of seven quarters, the Cardinals have been thoroughly dominated in all facets of the game. The main questions needed to be answered are still pending. Leinart has yet to stretch the field in the passing game, Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower have produced little and the offensive line is somehow getting worse. Time will tell how things pan out but as of now there are still questions all around.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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