SAN DIEGO — And so ends the Arizona Cardinals’ nearly week-long trip to San Diego.
Four days, three nights, two practices and one preseason loss later, they will return to the dry heat not feeling too great about the 19-3 defeat they suffered, but at the same time confident their time on the left coast was not wasted.
“Yeah, we got good work,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “It didn’t show up in the game, and sometimes that dragging into the game because you practice hard — when you practice hard there is a lot of enthusiasm, you have a walk-through and then a long day. A veteran team should show up.”
Arians said he did not like how his team started the game, which set the tone for the evening.
That may be true. The Cardinals struggled out of the gate and never really found their rhythm. But even if the 60 minutes of football they played Friday might have given an impression that the team is in a bad spot, in truth, perhaps it does not tell the story.
Quarterback Carson Palmer said the practices against the Chargers were more difficult than the game, if only because the first-team got to play a lot more.
“This week, you look and you grade more the film and the film from practice,” he said. “We had five hours of practice against them in two days and then I don’t know how many minutes of game reps we had.
“It was a good learning experience for us and a good chance for us to work against somebody else like we did. We’ll look at the film and grade it and move on.”
What can Jaron Brown do for you?
The concept of Jaron Brown playing well is not foreign or even that surprising. For the most part, whenever he has been called on over the last three seasons he has produced.
He’s always been talked about as being a reliable weapon and a player who Palmer feels comfortable throwing to in sticky situations, yet given the immense talent in the Cardinals’ receiver room, he rarely gets a chance to really show his stuff on a consistent basis.
But with John Brown still recovering from a concussion and Larry Fitzgerald out with a “slight MCL” injury, as Arians called it, the team needed more than usual from the fourth-year pro.
And as is customary, he delivered.
Against the Chargers, Brown caught two passes for 40 yards. Each reception was good for a first down, and one of them saw him show excellent body control in coming down with the ball through tight coverage.
“He’s the best wide receiver we have right now,” Arians said. “Most consistent in practice and it shows up in games.”
Hearing words like that from his coach makes Brown feel better.
“It’s definitely good. That was one of my deals going in this camp, I wanted to be more consistent catching the ball,” he said. “Just kind of eliminating those mental errors. To get a little recognition for it, it’s OK.”
Brown, who also excels on special teams, is not exactly on the roster bubble though he said he keeps the same mentality he’s had since entering the league as an undrafted rookie free agent.
That’s why, even after a solid night that garnered praise from his head coach, Brown still made sure to point out that he was not as good as he should have been.
“I still feel like I made a couple mistakes out there in the run game and everything, but that’s going to get corrected in practice,” he said.
On Palmer’s pick
The Cardinals seemed to be getting out of their funk. Palmer connected with Brown for 23 yards on a third-down play and then on the following first down, David Johnson picked up five yards on a run.
Then Palmer dropped back to pass, quickly turned to his left and fired a pass that never made it to his intended receiver. Not even close, actually.
Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers jumped the route, which called for a quick wide receiver screen, intercepted the pass and took it back 25 yards for a touchdown. It all happened so quickly that it almost looked as though Flowers took the ball from the QB’s right hand.
“I’m not sure exactly what happened,” Palmer said. “The guy made a pretty great catch. I’d like to have done a better job trying to knock it out of there but a lot of those great catches and tipped balls like that happen in the preseason and not in the regular season.”
Flowers has an idea of what transpired.
“I thought he was going to hand it off,” he admitted. “I was just trying to make a play on the ball. I just had to react quick. Once it hit the hands I just had to make sure I brought it in.”
Bad read? Terrible throw? Great play by the defender? Whatever it was, the miscue turned into the game’s only touchdown.
It was just one of those things.
“It was a running play that he has an option to get out of when they blitz into it,” Arians said. “They blitzed right into it and he stumbles and throws a bubble right to the guy.
“The guy made a nice play but he, still, the bubble runner should have been deeper and he should’ve made the throw quicker.”
Barkley was better, Stanton not so much
Last week against Oakland was a bit of a struggle for Matt Barkley, one of two players vying to be the team’s third quarterback.
His night against the Chargers appeared to be a step in the right direction. One week after completing eight-of-24 passes for 121 yards with an interception, he completed 10-of-15 passes for 85 yards against San Diego.
He was efficient and, while he overthrew a couple of deep balls, showed a level of accuracy and poise that was lacking against the Raiders.
“Yeah, he played better,” Arians said. “I’ll judge the tape, but he seemed better out there on the field.”
Barkley said the key was taking what the defense was giving him and taking shots when they presented themselves.
“When you’re seeing everything — and it was a little slower tonight — just seeing defenses, so I knew where to get my eyes, where to get my feet,” he said. “And everything just flowed smoother.”
Part of the challenge for Barkley, along with still trying to get a better handle on Arizona’s offense, is the rotating group of receivers he has to work with. Injuries have caused a considerable amount of shuffling, and without the timing that comes with consistency, life is just a bit more difficult.
“On some timing routes, it’s hard to be perfect so you put the ball in the area where they’re supposed to be,” he said. “A lot of that is trust and it’s hard to trust new receivers, there’s not a lot to work with, but at the same time it’s preseason so you have to give them a shot.
“We have work to do as an offense as a whole, but it was overall better than last week which is what we want.”
If nothing else, Barkley’s outing was better than Drew Stanton’s. The second-string QB once again struggled with accuracy, consistently throwing too high to open targets. And, just like last week, one of his errant passes was intercepted.
Overall, Stanton completed just 2-of-7 passes for 32 yards and that interception.
“It’s all fundamentals,” Arians said. “His left shoulder — he’s scooting up in the pocket, dropping his right shoulder down, and the ball is going to go high every time.”