What We Learned About the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame Game

Ron Clements@Ron_ClementsCorrespondent IAugust 6, 2012

Arizona Cardinals rookie safety Eddie Elder (42) was one of the bright spots for the Cardinals on Sunday night. He laid out Saints wide receiver Andy Tanner, forcing a fourth-quarter fumble.
Arizona Cardinals rookie safety Eddie Elder (42) was one of the bright spots for the Cardinals on Sunday night. He laid out Saints wide receiver Andy Tanner, forcing a fourth-quarter fumble.Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals lost to the New Orleans Saints in Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game at Canton, Ohio’s Fawcett Stadium.

The number one thing we learned from the Cardinals in the 17-10 defeat is that the quarterback competition is still very muddled. Even if Kevin Kolb comes back in a week or two from his rib contusion suffered in the first quarter, he has a long way to go to beat John Skelton for the starting job.

Kolb was picked off by New Orleans’ Malcolm Jenkins on his first pass attempt and finished the night 1-for-4 for only four yards. That one completion was on the play in which he was injured when Saints defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis yanked him down in the end zone.

Skelton led a 14-play, 90-yard scoring drive and was sharp in his three series. He left the game following a 4-for-6 passing night. None of the other Cardinals quarterbacks were particularly sharp. Excluding Skelton’s numbers, Kolb, rookie Ryan Lindley and Richard Bartel were a combined 14-of-32 for 157 yards and two interceptions.

One receiver who didn’t see much action was rookie Michael Floyd, the team’s first-round pick from Notre Dame. Floyd caught just one pass for 15 yards and did not get any reps with the starting offense. This could be a sign that Floyd isn’t up to speed with the playbook or just that he hasn’t done anything to surpass Early Doucet and Andre Roberts on the depth chart. Regardless of the reasons, it’s disappointing that Floyd isn’t yet pushing either guy for the No. 2 spot behind Larry Fitzgerald.

The Cardinals gave up 54 sacks last year, second-worst only to the St. Louis Rams, and the offensive line did not play well last night. Aside from the injury to Kolb, Arizona’s quarterbacks were dropped three times, hit another seven and the Saints recorded five other tackles for a loss.

Rushing with primarily four players the entire night, New Orleans was able to get consistent penetration. Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm has a lot of coaching up to do if this unit is going to improve over the next month.

The Cardinals may want to consider moving Rob Housler into the starting lineup. Housler had the key block on Arizona’s only touchdown, a four-yard scamper by running back Alfonso Smith. His speed was also a problem for the Saints defenders, as Housler finished with three receptions for 51 yards. It should have been more had the Cardinals quarterbacks seen him open on a couple of other plays.

Smith and LaRod Stephens-Howling also looked good, as they filled in for Arizona’s injured top two backs—Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. Smith led the team with 46 rushing yards on eight carries, while Stephens-Howling had 25 yards on just four attempts.

A few of the rookie defenders had good nights, as did veteran linebacker Stewart Bradley. Rookie cornerback Larry Parker laid out for what was initially ruled an interception before replays showed the ball hitting the ground. Safeties Justin Bethel, Eddie Elder and Blake Gideon also stood out with strong efforts.

Elder showed he could bring the lumber, Bethel blocked a field goal and Gideon had an interception in the end zone to thwart a would-be Saints score.

Arizona did have a few bright spots, but those were outnumbered by poor plays and question marks.

The Cardinals will not return to Flagstaff until after Friday’s preseason game against Kansas City. The Chiefs and Cardinals will practice together this week at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo.