Arizona Cardinals Preseason Game 2 Review

Chris FarmerCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 22:  Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling #36 of the Arizona Cardinals carries the ball for a 3 yard gain in the third quarter during the game against  the San Diego Chargers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 22, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The following are my impressions and observations from Saturday Night’s home preseason opener for the Arizona Cardinals versus the playoff hopeful San Diego Chargers.

Once more, Cardinal fans will have to wait to see top draft pick Chris Beanie Wells carrying the rock. He warmed up on the sidelines before the game but the coaching staff erred on the side of caution and kept him out of action with a lingering ankle injury.

The star shining brightest may have been seventh round draft pick LaRod Stephens-Howling. With injured returner Michael Ray Garvin not playing, LSH returned the opening kickoff 89 yards, and had another for 63 yards, helping his cause to make the final 53-man roster.

The Offense: Displayed a mix of positives and negatives. Kurt Warner looked on top of his game on some plays, and rusty on others, throwing an ill advised pass into the hands of Antonio Cromartie in the end zone, killing the drive. He connected easily with Anquan Boldin three times, but was off target a few times as well, namely to Larry Fitzgerald.  It was a shock to see a pass glance off of Fitz’s hands, it is such a rare sight.

Tim Hightower continues to impress. His main weakness last year was occasionally dancing too  much behind the O-line and and taking a loss. This year he has noticeably improved in that area, when after taking a hit in the backfield he is still getting positive yards out of it. He is making first contact with defenders, making them pay, and averaged nearly 5 yards a carry last night on 9 carries.

The word out of Arizona is that Jerheme Urban has locked up the fourth WR spot with a stellar camp. I would have to think Early Doucet will be the fifth and the sixth may have to be Pro Bowler Sean Morey for his superior Special Teams skills, leaving Onrea Jones and Lance Long likely out of the picture. It is too bad, both Jones and Long have success when given the chance. Long had 3 catches for 41 yards and a fumble recovery.

It is always tough to get a fair assessment of O-line play in its entirety due to limited view of the action, but it seems the first string held up well again, except for Levi Brown who got penalized for a few bad decisions.

Likewise from the Tight Ends, unless they are targeted as receivers, I am not sure what the game tape will tell the coaches. In the passing game, Leonard Pope had a couple of grabs and Ben Patrick was on the end of a couple of poor passes, neither caught. From my perspective, nothing was learned about the TE corps.

Jason Wright has been a personal disappointment so far. I thought he was a solid addition to the team but I have mostly only noticed him when he is making mistakes, one time wiffing on Shawne Merriman in pass protection which led to Kurt Warner landing on his backside.

I think Brian St. Pierre is playing himself out of competition for the #2 QB job, he must just not play well in the spotlight. Last preseason with no expectations he played great.

Matt Leinart played even better this time around. Not so much the 6 for 10 passing, as the confidence in the pocket and with his reads, and moving with less stiffness in and out of the pocket. He just looks more comfortable now than ever.

The Defense: Its early, but I am breathing a sigh of relief with the play of the Defense so far under new D-Coordinator Bill Davis. He is continuing what Clancy Pendergast started in bringing pressure, resulting in 4 sacks in roughly a quarter and a half of play.

Calais Campbell notched one sack, and looks primed to fill the departed Antonio Smith’s shoes well, showing flashes of perhaps exceeding Smith’s play from last season. Physically, he is an imposing presence, and if he can pair that with his non-stop motor on every snap, Cards’ fans may be looking at another Pro Bowler.

Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby and unheralded Bryan Robinson had a sack a piece. We expect Dockett and Dansby to make plays, but a blue collar guy like B-Rob just goes about his business and doesn’t get much mention.

Victor Hobson added another sack later in the game, and I saw him make a couple of other stops.

Aside from LSH, the most impressive players to me were surprises. Linebackers Pago Togafau and Reggie Walker are thought to be long shots for roster spots, yet they were both swarming all night. Walker made two goal line stands in a row almost all by himself. Not sure if that gets them on the final roster, but with fellow LB Ali Highsmith sitting due to injury, they certainly took advantage of the extended playing time.

Didn’t see much from LB Cody Brown, but LB Will Davis made a couple of plays as did S Rashad Johnson, although he did drop a sure interception.

UPDATE: Cody Brown injured in the game and to be placed on IR ending his rookie season before it begins.

Michael Adams plays big for a small guy. The play with him jumping on Antonio Gates’ back and making the tackle was priceless.

Rookie CB Greg Toler makes some mistakes but his burst of speed is going to be a real asset this year. Seeing him fly across the field and put a big smack on Darren Sproles to send him entirely out of bounds was awesome. Oh and by the way, that was a bogus penalty. That my friends was great football.

I am sorry to report that rookie CB Wilrey Fontenot from Arizona U. has no chance of making the roster. He was burned repeatedly and looks completely lost out there.

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