Cardinals notes: Brandon Williams shines in loss to Bears
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Three weeks into the preseason, Brandon Williams is starting to look like an NFL cornerback.
The second-year pro and third-year defensive back had a pair of passes defended, drew an offensive pass interference penalty, had five tackles and no significant errors in a 24-23, preseason loss to the Chicago Bears on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Despite that performance, Williams was stuck on the one play he didn’t make: a missed interception early in the fourth quarter when he stepped in front of receiver Titus Davis but bobbled the throw from quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
“My game didn’t go that good because I dropped the pick,” he said. “I set the bar so high for myself so when I don’t make a play like that it messes up the whole game. In my eyes, the game wasn’t that good but next week, it’ll be better. I promise you that.”
Williams struggled so much early in camp that the competition for the starting cornerback spot opposite Patrick Peterson has been all but won by Justin Bethel. With Brandon Williams and Tramon Williams settling in as depth players, however, the Cardinals cornerback position — one of the biggest training camp question marks — appears to have stabilized.
“I wish he had got that pick again because that would have really boosted his confidence,” coach Bruce Arians said of Williams. “But he played really well.”
Saturday’s game featured a handful of rare special teams plays. On the plus side, Phil Dawson made a 52-yard field goal and the Cardinals recovered an onside kick late in the game to give themselves a chance at a win, before QB Blaine Gabbert missed a wide open Jeremy Ross on a two-point conversion attempt.
On the downside, Dawson’s 63-yard attempt was wide right and short, allowing Bears return man Deonte Thompson to field it in the end zone and return it 109 yards for a touchdown.
“After realizing I didn’t make the kick and being upset about that, believe or not, we all have coverage responsibilities,” Dawson said. “From what I could tell, our guys knew what to do. The Bears knew what to do, too. Let’s be honest when you have a kicker and a punter and a bunch of offensive linemen running down there, that’s kind of a mismatch in regards to coverage.”
Dawson can’t remember ever being in a scenario like before. Former Cardinals kicker Jay Feely can.
ROUGH NIGHT FOR INSIDE LINEBACKERS
Top draft pick Haason Reddick and Scooby Wright had rough nights tackling in Arians’ postgame evaluation. Nether is expected to start, but with Karlos Dansby nursing a leg injury and Deone Bucannon on the PUP list after offseason surgery, they were thrown into the fire against Chicago with poor results.
The Bears managed 76 rushing yards in the first half, including four runs of nine or more yards.
“You don’t want to see anybody making 10, 15-yard runs against any of our defenses, but especially our No. 1s,” said Arians, who can’t wait for his starters to return. “I hope to hell they get healthy. I would be concerned if we’re playing with the group we had tonight.”
Arians called out his receivers this week, noting that back in the spring he thought the room was stacked with talent, but after watching camp practice, that number had dwindled.
“I must have been seeing things back in the spring when I said we had 12 guys that could play in the NFL,” he said. “I think we might have two, but we’ll look around and see who’s available.”
While there were some positives on Saturday, the group didn’t exactly impress. Larry Fitzgerald and Jaron Brown barely played, and John Brown sat out again with a quadriceps injury, limiting the evaluation possibilities.
The other receivers accounted for just 16 catches, 149 yards and a TD, and Chris Hubert lost a catch that became an interception.
When asked if he liked the group’s response to his criticism, Arians said: “Yes and no. Little Smoke (Hubert) was having a hell of a game to give up that interception there.”
KNOWING THE SITUATION
Arians when asked if ever considered kicking the extra point after the Cardinals pulled within 24-23 with five seconds left, rather than going for two points and the win: “No way. That’s against all rules of preseason football.”
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