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Cardinals vs. Titans: Breaking Down Key Performances from Arizona's 32-27 Loss

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Cardinals vs. Titans: Breaking Down Key Performances from Arizona's 32-27 Loss
Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE

Even if it is only preseason, the Arizona Cardinals were looking to put together back-to-back wins, something they had become accustomed to over the final eight games of last season.

But those hopes quickly went south as poor quarterback and offensive line play reared its ugly head once again. Seemingly, Arizona thought they were past that stage after the Raiders victory, but as they say, "old habits die hard."  

Both Kevin Kolb and John Skelton underwhelmed as neither could play consistently at a high level. Kolb made some really nice throws at times, yet at the same time he had a few head scratchers (as expected).

Skelton, on the other hand, just had a hard time getting anything going. His final stat line was a barren 4-of-ten for 41 yards with one interception. A quarterback rating of 12.9 isn't quite the number you want your head coach to see when you're competing for the starting quarterback job.

Regardless, let's take a peak at a few key performances both good and bad.

 

Kevin Kolb: The Good

On a night where Kolb throws two interceptions it's appropriate to start with the good. It took Kolb a full quarter and half to realize that Larry Fitzgerald was in fact still on his team, and once he did the Cardinals actually got into a nice little rhythm. 

As you can see this play isn't anything fancy as it proves to be a simple five-step drop from Kolb that ends in a nine-yard gain. There are two things that impress me on this play; the quarterback gets rid of the ball quickly and he progresses through his reads quickly. The key is to never stare down one guy for too long. 

In the top photo you can see where Kolb's eyes are, straight down the field as he's looking for something to develop. He doesn't like the coverage he sees, so what does he do? He quickly flips his line of vision (bottom image) to the left quadrant of the field where he sees Fitzgerald coming out of his break. Fitz is running a hitch route, so he will be expecting the ball as he turns back to the quarterback. 

Kolb rarely makes his progressions this quickly. However, I do realize that playing behind a subpar offensive line makes this much trickier as you have less time to throw. When given time he can show that his decision making is above average, but when he is required to think faster with pressure in his face the mistakes follow. 

Former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger was the same way. He was an outstanding quarterback when given adequate time to throw, but once the going got tough his play failed to inspire anyone. 

 

Kevin Kolb: The Bad

A 17-of-22 stat line doesn't look bad at all until you get to the fifth column over and see two interceptions. Not to mention, they were two very bad interceptions picked off by the same exact player. On the first interception the Cardinals went empty backfield five-wide, which gave Kolb plenty of throwing options. Except he decided to throw into quadruple coverage. 

It's utterly amazing to me that the four closest players to the ball are opposing defenders. His throw on the run lacked drive downfield as it fell five yards short of No. 12 Andre Roberts. Even if the ball would have gotten to Roberts it was still a horrible decision. That ball should have never even been thrown there in the first place. 

At this point when you're pressed against the sideline don't ever throw back across your body. The ball should have been thrown away, so the offense could have tried to pick up the first down on 3rd-and-10. 

Pay close attention as you watch the video above, Roberts is lined up in the slot-right wide receiver position. As he gets into his route, No. 90 Scott Solomon starts to bump him, which makes him turn up field because he realizes there is no way Solomon can run with him step-for-step. Kolb sees the same thing, yet he fails to realize that Colin McCarthy is reading his eyes as he's playing behind Todd Heap.

Bad decisions result in missed opportunities, something the Cardinals have become all too familiar with when Kolb is under center. 

 

William Powell

If you aren't familiar with William Powell yet, he is an undrafted running back out of Kansas State. He is small in stature at 5'9", but his height hasn't limited him from outplaying No. 3 running back Alfonso Smith during the preseason. 

Once camp opened he was a definite long shot to make the roster, yet that hasn't stopped him from playing above and beyond expectations week after week. Up to this point in the preseason he has racked up 200 yards on just 23 carries. 

Against Tennessee he arguably had his best game as a rookie; he displayed toughness, good vision and burst when hitting the hole. On this 2nd-and-10 run in the 3rd quarter Powell flashed an impressive jump cut that helped him pick up nine extra yards during a 14-yard run. 

Younger, late round running backs usually lack the vision necessary to make reads at the NFL level, which often forces them to fizzle out of the league. But against Tennessee Powell always had his eyes on his next target as he looked to be making his next move in his head before he even got to the defender. An encouraging trait when evaluating young backs. 

 

Left Tackle?

When I heard the news the left tackle Levi Brown was down for the season, I immediately thought it might be good to see what someone else can do at the position.

Brown has been a horrible pass blocker the last two seasons. According to Pro Football Focus, he has given up 21 sacks, 15 quarterback hits and 90 quarterback hurries over the past two seasons. 

To do worse than that takes genuine effort. Albeit to his credit, Brown played his tail off in the final eight games of the season and was hoping the improved play would carry over to the 2012 season. 

With Brown down, the undrafted D.J. Young was given first crack at the starting left tackle job. And to be fair his night wasn't all that bad until Kamerion Wimbley figured out the speed rush around the corner was all he needed. 

In the screen cap above you can see why Young got beat around the corner. Wimbley has such a low center of gravity that it's hard to get underneath of him to even slow him down, but when you couple that with no bend in your lower body, the chances of stopping him decrease to zero.

As an offensive lineman it's important to keep your feet moving and to bend so you can do your best to get low which in turn will help in pass protection.

The sad part is, right now Arizona doesn't have a better option at left tackle. And maybe wishing Brown away wasn't the best idea after all considering he at least brought stability to the position. 

While Arizona's season does ride on the play of their quarterback, the most telling sign will be the offensive line. That unit will truly dictate how far either Skelton or Kolb will be able to take them as both players can only improve with improved line play.

 

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