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Cardinals vs. Raiders: Arizona's Biggest Winners and Losers from 31-27 Win

Shaun ChurchContributor IOctober 9, 2016

Cardinals vs. Raiders: Arizona's Biggest Winners and Losers from 31-27 Win

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    The Arizona Cardinals came out of Friday’s 31-27 preseason victory against the Oakland Raiders with many winners and losers.

    Some are expected, some are surprising.

    The biggest winners came from the defense. The biggest losers, despite the score, were from the offense.

    These players have not locked up any starting positions or played themselves off the roster just yet, but it could be getting close for a position and player or two.

    Let’s go over the list.

Winner: Stewart Bradley

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    With starter Paris Lenon still sidelined with an ankle sprain, Stewart Bradley has stepped up and made big plays.

    He has exhibited a firm grasp of the defense and looks comfortable in the role he’s played.

    Against Oakland Friday night, Bradley recorded four tackles and one quarterback pressure. He was all over the field in run support and in coverage, and from what I saw, did not make any glaring mistakes.

    His role is still in question, as Lenon is still expected to start the season as the starting inside linebacker opposite strong-side starter Daryl Washington. But if Bradley continues to impress, he may take the job away from the veteran.

    Up-To-Date Preseason Stats: 14 tackles, one sack, two TFL, two QB pressures

Loser: Kevin Kolb

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    To be fair, Kevin Kolb did lead a touchdown drive on the Cardinals' initial position, and he looked good in doing so.

    He was 3-of-3 for 22 yards on the drive, and Ryan Williams, who started at running back, finished off the 41-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

    But after that, Kolb looked rattled again. He finished 3-of-6 for 22 yards and a 59.0 QB rating.

    It was obvious he attempted to stay in the pocket as long as possible, but he still failed to get the football out on time. He was sacked three times after not going down once during that first drive, and while his protection is partly to blame for them, he could have gotten rid of the ball earlier to prevent them—on two for sure; one play there was nothing he could have done.

    His chances at becoming the Cardinals’ starting quarterback are growing slimmer by the hour.

    Up-To-Date Preseason Stats: 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) for 47 yards, zero TD, one INT, 16.1 rating

Winner: John Skelton

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    He led the offense on only one drive, but John Skelton may very well have won the starting job Friday night.

    At least, that’s the feel from the fanbase.

    Skelton’s lone drive, which began at the Oakland 23-yard line, lasted only four plays and ended when he hit fullback Anthony Sherman in the right flat for a three-yard touchdown pass.

    His final line was 3-of-3 for 23 yards, one touchdown and a 138.2 QB rating.

    While it would seem unusual to call Skelton a winner after one short touchdown drive, the fact that Coach Ken Whisenhunt removed him from the game says a lot about the situation.

    Pay close attention to team writers and local radio stations this week, as a decision could be drawing closer.

    Up-To-Date Preseason Stats: 10-of-15 (66.7 percent) for 90 yards, one TD, one INT, 77.1 rating

Loser: D’Anthony Batiste

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    Whisenhunt made a change in his starting offensive line this week, moving D’Anthony Batiste to right tackle and Jeremy Bridges to No. 2 right guard.

    That didn’t work against the Raiders’ exquisite defensive line; Batiste was manhandled the entire time he was in the game.

    It might be time to try out rookie right tackle Bobby Massie while the games don’t matter.

    Bridges was not good as the starter during the first two preseason games and now Batiste comes in and acts as if he’s new to the game.

    If someone doesn’t step up, a challenging season for whichever quarterback is named the starter will be even more demanding.

    Another option would be to start with Bridges or rookie guard Senio Kelemete at right guard and slide Adam Snyder out to right tackle if Massie is not yet ready to start.

    Something must be done.

Winner: First-Team Defense

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    In a big turnaround from the first two preseason games, Arizona’s starting defense came out firing on all cylinders Friday night.

    After forcing a three-and-out on Oakland’s first possession, they created two turnovers and allowed only two Sebastian Janikowski field goals after the Raiders got deep into Arizona territory.

    They didn’t sack Carson Palmer, who looked good other than the tipped-ball interception from Adrian Wilson to Kerry Rhodes, but they created enough pressure to cause him to evacuate the pocket numerous times and scramble on occasion.

    Don’t worry about the defense’s slow start. They are who we thought they were.

Loser: William Gay

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    William Gay is listed as the No. 2 cornerback as of right now.

    Friday, he struggled and was targeted successfully multiple times by Palmer. He was beaten as Michael Adams had been beaten the two weeks prior.

    Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic asked Ray Horton this week if anyone had put any pressure on Gay for the starting right cornerback position.

    Horton’s answer:

    No. For me, really, it’s hard to evaluate anybody because we haven’t done anything. Nobody has said wow to me, I returned a pick for a touchdown, I caused two fumbles. Nothing glaring like that. We stress how important every play is. Has anybody stepped to the forefront? I’d say no.

    But with his performance Friday and the performance of the next cornerback, that may soon change.

    Up-To-Date Preseason Stats: Four tackles

Winner: Jamell Fleming/Justin Bethel

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    Jamell Fleming

    “Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t trust rookies.”

    Yeah, we all know that.

    But with how Jamell Fleming handled himself during his first game at University of Phoenix Stadium since earning Defensive Player of the game for the 2012 Fiesta Bowl, he’s making his case to earn that starting right corner spot over Gay.

    Not only was he technically sound all game long, he was physical with receivers—so physical, in fact, that he earned two bogus penalties—and aggressive in coverage.

    He vastly outperformed Gay against the Oakland starting offense (they remained in the game when Arizona replaced its defensive starters with No. 2s).

    And though he did not return a pick for a touchdown or cause two fumbles, as Horton suggested would be necessary to stand out as a possible replacement candidate for Gay, he provided big plays both in the passing game and the run game—recording one pass defended and a team-leading eight tackles.

    Up-To-Date Preseason Stats: 12 tackles, one TFL, one pass defended

     

    Justin Bethel

    As of this moment, there is probably zero chance Justin Bethel does not make the final cut just before Week 1.

    He blocked an extra point early in the third quarter to help preserve a seven-point lead.

    Before that, he blocked a punt, scooped it up and scored from 19 yards to extend the Cardinals lead to 24-8 with five minutes remaining in the first half.

    He also recorded four tackles and is becoming a fan-favorite throughout Cardinals’ Nation.

    Up-To-Date Preseason Stats: 12 tackles, two blocked kicks, one blocked punt, one TD

     

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