Arizona picked up its first win of the preseason edging the Oakland Raiders 31-27. What did we learn about the Cardinals based on their effort? Here's 10 things we saw from Arizona in its home opener.
1. Ryan Williams looks good. The running back from Virginia Tech saw his first action of the year and made the most of it. He looked sharp on his cuts and had a nice burst of speed on his five carries for 25 yards and a touchdown. Overall, Beanie Wells also went through warm-ups but didn't play in this game. Look for Wells to get in the game next week at Tennessee and see what this rushing attack really looks like.
2. The offensive line for Arizona looks weak. Oakland was able to get pressure on starting quarterback Kevin Kolb with just a four-man rush. One of those plays resulted in a safety that triggered an eight-point run that gave the Raiders an 8-7 lead after 15 minutes. Arizona needs to not only handle blitzes but also keep the defenders away from the quarterback on any kind of rush. The Cardinals gave up four sacks tonight and looked like the offensive line of the last two seasons that gave up 105 sacks in the last 32 regular season games.
3. Kevin Kolb has no internal clock to get rid of the ball. On the first touchdown drive, Kolb was able to get enough time to sit back, scan the zone coverage and find the open receiver. When he was under any duress, Kolb seems to lose the ability to look for his check-down receiver. Kolb's inability to read the rush and throw it away has resulted in sacks.
4. The Cardinals would be sunk if not for the big returns on defense. Patrick Peterson's huge punt return made a difference in getting Arizona a short field for its first touchdown with a 42-yard return. Safety Kerry Rhodes led to a field goal with a 60-yard return of a Carson Palmer pass in the opening minute of the second quarter. If those big returns don't happen, the Cardinals might not have scored those 10 points and potentially lost.
5. The defense isn't improved much. Arizona surrendered four field goals on the night and that doesn't bode well for the Cardinals. In 2011, they allowed the most field goal attempts (48) and field goals made (35) in the league. If the Cardinals want to be one of the better teams in the NFL, they need to stop their opponents and keep them outside the 50-yard line. Arizona allowed 284 yards in this game and needs to cut that down to take away scoring chances.
6. The Cardinals forced multiple turnovers. The Arizona defense forced three turnovers in the win over Oakland. Whether it be an interception or a fumble recovery, the Cardinals looked aggressive in trying to force the issue and make things happen. The downside was that Arizona also coughed it up three times so they finished the turnover battle at even with the Raiders.
7. Skelton takes care of business. Quarterback John Skelton walked onto the field and ran a play-action pass to fullback Anthony Sherman for a touchdown. The crowd got quite a bit behind Skelton when he hit the field and showed their support for him. The fans want Skelton but he didn't do anything spectacular to get into the driver's seat for the starter's job.
8. Arizona still can't cover passes to running backs. We saw the issues with the Cardinals ineptitude at covering the Saints' running backs on passing routes. The issue continued against Oakland as the Cardinals allowed an average of nine yards per reception to running backs. With the defensive line getting occupied with rushing the quarterback, the Cardinals are leaving gaps in their coverage for quick passes to the running backs.
9. Justin Bethel better make this team. With 6:20 left in the first half, he got around the defense and blocked a Marquis King punt. Bethel got such a good jump, he almost off took it right off of the punter's foot. Bethel also found the loose ball and ran it back 19 yards for a touchdown. He also blocked a field goal against the Saints in the Hall of Fame Game, so Bethel looks like one of the first rookies to clinch a roster spot. It would be surprising if Bethel was somehow not on the roster in 2012.
10. The Cardinals can't hold a lead. A big concern is that they were up 24-8 over Oakland but let the Raiders score 16 consecutive points to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter. Good teams get a lead and hold on to it but Arizona couldn't get that done against the Raiders' backups.
Arizona takes on Tennessee on Thursday for the fourth game of the preseason and the game will be on ESPN. It will be the final chance for players to stand out as cuts will be made following the game.
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