Arizona Cardinals vs. San Diego Chargers: Cards Preseason Game 4 Preview

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Arizona Cardinals vs. San Diego Chargers: Cards Preseason Game 4 Preview
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
Safety Tyrann Mathieu may play Thursday night.

In the finale of the 2014 preseason, the Arizona Cardinals travel to play the San Diego Chargers in a preview of their Week 1 matchup that will feature completely different lineups.

This week, it would be a surprise to see more than just a few starters see any game action from both sidelines. We already know quarterback Logan Thomas will play the entire game, per the team’s official Twitter account:

It’s possible we’ll see left guard Jonathan Cooper and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu Thursday. If we’re lucky, we’ll also see safety Tyrann Mathieu. Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com Monday reported Mathieu said there is a “great possibility” he plays in San Diego, so all signs appear to point in that direction.

Thursday night will be the last chance for 22 Cardinals players to show what they have for other NFL coaches. By Saturday afternoon, the roster must be trimmed from its current 75 to the final 53 heading into Week 1.

 

Cardinals Preseason Week 3 Recap

It’s a short week, so this game is probably still fresh in your mind. If it is, you remember solid offensive line play, shaky quarterback play and a (once again) non-existent run game.

Carson Palmer struggled to a 31.0 passer rating while throwing a pick-six to Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Terence Newman.

According to Green, Larry Fitzgerald took the blame for the defensive score: "I didn’t break across the corner’s face, and I’ve got to do that. You never can let your quarterback, you know, hang him out to dry, and so I’ve got to do a better job of reading and recognizing the defense and doing what I’m coached to do."

On a positive note, coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense looked fantastic throughout, allowing only four field goals—two each half. For the preseason, the starting defense has allowed three field goals in about a full game of play.

Rookie safety Deone Bucannon played especially well with the reserves in the second half. He accounted for five defensive stops, which is a stat by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) that constitutes an offensive fail. It’s complicated and depends on the down, but just know it’s a good thing.

He also was by far the highest-graded player on the team from the 19-13 loss, earning a plus-4.0 grade from the stats giant—a plus-0.3 for pass rushing, plus-1.4 for pass coverage and a plus-2.2 for run defense.

He’s looking really good, Cardinals fans. The caveat for Bucannon is so are safeties Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson. Both made plays at the line of scrimmage Sunday night against the Bengals. Bucannon probably won’t start, but he should begin earning more playing time soon.

Like Mathieu a year ago, he’s just too good to keep sidelined.

 

News and Notes

Cards’ First Cuts

Here is a list of all 13 cuts from Monday, in case you missed it or need a handy chart to look at.

Cardinals' First Cuts
Player Position PS Eligible?
Keenan Clayton LB Yes
JoJo Dickson LB Yes
Tom Draheim OC Yes
Reggie Dunn WR Yes
Jay Feely K No
Derrell Johnson LB Yes
Orhian Johnson SS Yes
Ryan Lindley QB Yes
Kevin Ozier WR Yes
Justin Renfrow DT Yes
Brandon Sermons CB Yes
Max Starks OT No
Damien Thigpen RB Yes

AZCardinals.com

 

Rookie Kicker Living a Dream

Kyle Odegard of ACZardinals.com talked to undrafted rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro after he beat out veteran Jay Feely for the team’s kicking duties this season. He was excited, but he takes nothing for granted:

My whole family was just really ecstatic, as well as me. I teared up a little bit. It’s just a lifelong dream coming true for me. …

I knew [kicking off] was kind of my knock coming out, and I just worked my tail off. I knew I had it in me, I just had to rep it, and rep it the right way. I knew I had that bomb in me. I’m very excited about where my kickoffs are right now.

So are we, Cat-Man. So are we.

Through two preseason games played (nine kickoffs), teams have returned six kicks for an average starting field position of the 15.6-yard line. That’s the third-best defensive field position among kickers with at least six kicks, according to PFF.

His average of 72.7 yards per kickoff is the best among kickers with the same criteria. The fact that he is 4-of-4 on field goals is an added bonus. He made the team over Feely for his stellar kickoffs. Field position is such a weapon. Add that to a great defense, and you have two of the three aspects of a football game on lockdown.

 

Tommy Kelly Added for Depth

In total, three players have been signed at defensive tackle since Darnell Dockett tore his ACL a week ago. Isaac Sopoaga likely will make the final cut, but the other who signed, Ryan McBean, was let go with the Kelly signing, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.

Kelly is known in Arizona for his comments about former Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb following a preseason matchup between the Cardinals and Kelly’s former team, the Oakland Raiders. The 6’6”, 310-pound defensive tackle told reporters Kolb was afraid in the pocket. He’s not wrong.

Kelly’s exact quote, from AZCentral.com’s Kent Somers: "He is skittish. He is scared back there. Anytime anybody gets close to him he starts looking at the refs. As a defensive lineman you love a quarterback like that. He ain’t even trying to look at the routes no more. He is paying attention to us and you ain’t going to get nothing done like that."

That is Kolb’s Cardinals career in a nutshell.

 

Michael Floyd Nearing "Dominant" Status

SI.com’s Chris Burke put out his 2014 All-Breakout Team this week. In it, he named third-year receiver Michael Floyd as a good candidate. From Burke:

A first-round pick in 2012 with a 1,000-yard ’13 in his back pocket, Floyd is hardly a secret weapon for the Cardinals. (His teammate, rookie slot receiver John Brown, better fits that bill.) But Floyd impressed throughout Arizona’s offseason workouts, and once this season is complete he may be more of a dominant NFL wide receiver than a rising star.

These things are true. Floyd is on the verge of becoming Palmer’s top target, and unless the receiver misses time due to injury—knock on wood—that may be inevitable. Fitzgerald appears to be healthy this season, so he will do what he does best, going over the middle for tough yards.

But Floyd is more the vertical threat at this point. Last season, Floyd had 17 receptions of 20 yards or more, which was 26.2 percent of his season receptions. Fitz had 11, just 13.4 percent of his season receptions. While Fitzgerald’s total could have been due to his bothersome hamstring, he may never be the deep threat he once was.

By season’s end, Floyd could be the big man in the receiving corps.

 

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

Most camp battles were settled after Monday’s cuts, but a couple still should interest you. They follow.

 

Left Guard: Ted Larsen vs. Jonathan Cooper vs. Earl Watford

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Larsen started Sunday night versus the Bengals, so he appears to have a leg up on the battle. If Cooper plays and can be what he was pre-leg break, he still has a shot to start the Monday night opener, you’d think.

Watford may be out of it, but we put him here just in case. He should get plenty of playing time against the Chargers, so he will get a chance to earn the spot—though chances are slim at this point.

 

Left Outside Linebacker: Matt Shaughnessy vs. Sam Acho

With John Abraham back and working his way back into the starting lineup on the right side, the left side is still up for grabs. It’s likely we don’t see much of either Shaughnessy or Acho Thursday night, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a competition.

Practice is where these two will battle it out between now and the opener.

Shaughnessy remains one of the best run-defending outside linebackers in the NFL, and Acho does great things in coverage while learning to be a better pass-rusher.

 

Cardinals X-Factor of the Week: Jonathan Cooper

We could have gone with Thomas here, since he will play the entire game. But more is at stake for Cooper than for Thomas. The former No. 7 overall pick will play 20 to 25 plays, and with those plays, he must prove to Arians he is again worthy of starting at left guard.

Otherwise, Larsen will start Week 1 against the Chargers.

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