The Arizona Cardinals put together their most complete game of the 2010 preseason in Saturday night’s win over the Chicago Bears. A host of players exceled in the Windy City, making Ken Whisenhunt’s job that much harder with first cuts coming on Tuesday. The duds were a little harder to find in this game as most of the locks to make the roster look ready to start the regular season. However, several crucial decisions still need to be made.
The Defense: It is hard to single out individual players in such an outstanding team effort like the Cardinals’ defense put in for three quarters Saturday. Leading the charge was defensive end Calais Campbell who continues to show signs of having a breakout season with a sack a blocked kick and overall disruptive play up front.
The secondary was solid with corners Greg Toler and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie making interceptions and safety Matt Ware coming up big on a few occasions. Linebackers Clark Haggans and Joey Porter were also crucial in the pass rush, keeping Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler uncomfortable in the pocket throughout the evening.
Most questions about the defense seem to be answered at the moment as the unit appears to be a strong point heading into the regular season.
The Quarterbacks: After struggling in the first two games of the preseason, Matt Leinart was demoted and his roster spot was called into question. Derek Anderson stepped in to lead the offense and didn’t disappoint, passing for 94 yards and a touchdown. Leinart also answered his coach’s challenge, going 9 of 10 for 84 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Not to be left out, rookie Max Hall continued to impress, completing a couple long passes to seal the win. Whiz is still not sold on a starter and Saturday made his decision that much more complicated. But, with the quarterbacks pushing each other with their quality play, this is a good problem for the head coach to have.
Stephen Williams: The rookie wideout has been a fixture on the “studs” list with his stellar play and Saturday was no different as Williams hauled in five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Williams has moved past securing a roster spot and is now pushing hard to see significant playing time. The scary thing about the Houston native is that he has produced against opposing first-team defenses and is only going to get better.
Tim Hightower: The running game was significantly better against Chicago and Tim Hightower was a big reason why with 62 yards on eight attempts. The third-year back was also a force as a receiver and blocker. While Beanie Wells is the popular choice to be the Cards’ top running back, Hightower has proven himself to be the most complete player at the position,. Arizona is expected to be stronger in the running game and Hightower will be counted upon to help lead the charge.
Honorable Mention: Steve Breaston, Deuce Lutui, Michael Adams
Levi Brown: The starting left tackle has struggled with containing athletic, edge rushers in his careers and Brown looked lost at times attempting to contain Julius Peppers on Saturday. The entire line has struggled with the shifting of positions, but Brown seems to be slower than the others in transitioning from the right side. The former first-round pick’s progression has seemingly halted of late and Brown will need to pick-up the slack in order to keep whoever’s under center upright.
Beanie Wells: Wells has not had the best preseason, looking hesitant and indecisive when hitting holes and making some of the same mistakes that plagued him as a rookie. One of the problems has been hanging onto the football and it struck again right before halftime Saturday in the red zone, killing a potential scoring drive. Wells has all the tools to be an elite NFL running back if he can solve the mental errors he continues to commit.
Jorrick Calvin: The rookie corner has struggled to shake off the rust after missing his entire 2009 season at Troy. Calvin did not help his case for a roster spot, getting beat for a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and being overshadowed by fellow rookies Marshay Green and A.J. Jefferson. Calvin has experienced difficulty adjusting to the speed of the pro game and has subsequently been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Early Doucet: This is a reach as Doucet was just coming off of an abdominal injury and did not play many snaps. However, with several players at his position making plays – mainly Williams and Max Komar – it’s hard to ignore Doucet’s absence from the highlight reel. The third-year wideout had a handful catchable balls fall incomplete. Doucet is still a lock to make the team, but his time on the field may stand to suffer if other receivers continue their outstanding play.
Honorable Mention: Bryan Robinson, Brandon Keith
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52
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