Leinart and Beanie upstage starters
Preseason Game 3 was supposed to be a time for the first string to gel and play like reigning NFC Champions across the board. Instead it was another sloppy outing for Kurt Warner, and a downright embarrassing one for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Luckily for Arizona Cardinals fans, that is only part of the story in their 44-37 loss to the Green Bay Packers Friday Night.
Matt Leinart had what may be his best outing as a pro, 24/38, 360 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT in one half of play. Playing with a command of the offense and accurate passing, Leinart brought the Cardinals back from a 28 point deficit and had the team primed to take the lead on a two point conversion, which was placed perfectly into the hands of Early Doucet, only to be dropped.
The other big news was that Beanie Wells performed like a first round draft pick should in his first NFL action. He displayed all aspects of what made him a highly touted prospect coming out of college with nimble feet, patience and vision. Wells did not disappoint with 46 yards on 7 carries and 2 TDs.
Tim Hightower continued to impress, with determined running enabling 6.3 yards per carry. LaRod Stephens-Howling looked solid again before having to leave the game concussed. Jason Wright finally stepped up and made some noise, catching 3 balls out of the backfield for 45 yards , turning one into a well earned TD by refusing to be tackled and keeping his legs churning.
While Larry Fitzgerald played like Fitz, the WRs battling it out for the second tier had mixed results.
Projected #4 WR Jerheme Urban started the game due to injuries to Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. His stats looked great, with 6 catches for over 100 yards, but he also dropped a well thrown ball and fumbled on a run after catch another time. Early Doucet’s results were similar, with 5 catches for 93 yards and a TD, but multiple drops including what would have been the lead taking 2 point conversion on a beautifully thrown ball by Leinart, and also a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty to his name. Lance Long had some drops, including one as punt returner that he recovered. He also will not be credited with a spectacular corner of the end zone grab that was clearly a touchdown though it was not ruled so. Sean Morey, though predominantly a special teams standout, caught 5 for 71 yards. Finally, I really like this kid Onrea Jones, who caught another touchdown pass.
Kurt Warner continued his preseason level of play, solid and smooth some of the time, yet careless with the ball and slightly out of sync at other times. 10/16 for 139 yards and an INT doesn’t sound that bad, but he wasn’t the efficient field general the Cardinals need him to be last night.
The Cardinals played undiscplined Defense overall, leading to a lot of yards and a lot of points for Green Bay, but there were bright spots.
DRC was burnt repeatedly, which is an eye opener for a player supposedly on the rise to stardom. While there is no denying his immense physical gifts, displayed prominently on the first deep ball swat of the night which he should have intercepted by the way, it will be important for him and the Cardinals not to forget how much work he has left to do learning the fundamentals.
Darnell Dockett used to dominate some games only to disappear the next. I think this year he will make sure that is a thing of the past. He seems to bring heavy heat on almost every snap.
Karlos Dansby, Adrian Wilson, Gerald Hayes and Calais Campbell always seem to play well, the latter notching another sack, and all of them swarming well. Clark Haggans and Aaron Francisco played well, with the latter walloping Greg Jennings and knocking him out of the game.
With second round draft pick DE/LB Cody Brown expected to be placed on season-ending IR, sixth round selection DE/LB Will Davis looks to fulfill his role. So far so good, as Davis brought adequate pressure including one sack.
For me one of the best surprises of the preseason has been the play of relative unknown LB Reggie Walker, an undrafted free agent from Kansas State. Last game he was key on two goal line stands in a row. Against the Packers, not only did he get some reps with the first string Defense, he made ANOTHER goal line stand. I think his efforts should reward him a roster spot.
I have had this discussion before, when defending the merits of kicker Neil Rackers. I hear the usual canned responses, “he is just a kicker” being the main one. The truth is, Rackers is much more than that and very important to the team. Sure, he had one incredible record breaking year kicking field goals, a level which he has been unable to sustain. Yet it is the other aspects of his game that make him one of the game’s best. Firstly, Rackers is a very active tackler. He has good foot speed and you will frequently find him making solo tackles on kickoffs, hitting and wrapping up like a linebacker. Secondly, he is anually one of the league’s best in touchbacks, thwarting returners from even having a chance to leave their own end zones in order to increase field position. Finally, he is adept at onside kicks. Last night, he performed a self recovery squib to perfection, nudging the ball off the tee for about 15 yards and beating the receiving team to the ball.
A version of this article also appears on NFLTouchdown.com
For more from Chris Farmer, visit Undrafteds.com