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Cardinals-Falcons leftovers: Chris Johnson, Cap Capi battle for roles

Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) runs as Oakland Raiders' Cory James (57) make the tackle during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The penultimate preseason game for the Arizona Cardinals acted as the final prep for their starters, and to that end, Saturday’s 24-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons went positively as Arizona’s first and second teams opened up a 17-0 lead on the reigning NFC champions midway through the second quarter.

Now it’s on to the preseason finale Thursday against the Denver Broncos, where several battles for roster spots could be decided.

To set up the final week of the preseason, here are a few notes and tidbits from the Cardinals’ win in Atlanta.

Chris Johnson still on the bubble?

Head coach Bruce Arians isn’t known to mince words, so consider his comments real when examining running back Chris Johnson’s 31 rushing yards on six carries that were marred by two fumbles.

“I mean, it was bad, especially down there at the 5-yard line. The other one, he got hit pretty quick. Then we had another fumble on a zone play; our guards were just not doing very good,” Arians said.

Kerwynn Williams appears like a lock to make the roster considering his new role as a return man but after that, what the running backs room will look like behind starter David Johnson, who took just two snaps Saturday, remains wide open.

Andre Ellington took four carries for three yards (including a seven-yard run) and caught a seven-yard pass. Undrafted free agent James Summers took the most carries (10) for the most yards (40) of the backs. And Elijhaa Penny, last season’s preseason darling at running back, took six carries for nine yards.

Arians made it sound like the game in Denver will carry weight in final decision-making.

“Oh, yeah, every position is still in play,” Arians said when asked about Johnson’s status. “We have another game and we’ll see what happens next week.”

Who played well?

Pro Football Focus’ grades trended toward defensive success.

Starting defensive backs Justin Bethel and Tyvon Branch rounded out the list, but backup defensive lineman Xavier Williams and defensive back Harlan Miller also graded well. Atop the list, however, was outside linebacker Cap Capi.

Capi could have cemented himself on the 53-man roster with seven tackles, two QB hurries and 1.5 sacks against Atlanta.

“You know, hopefully he can do that against the 1s,” Arians told Paul Calvisi after the game on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “That’s the big difference. He was wearing out those 2s and 3s, for sure. Cap’s got a good rush. He’s a heck of a player — he’s been on our practice squad for a year and it’s not like he just does it for one time. He’s got a great chance (to make the team).”

If he makes the roster, Capi would fall on the depth chart behind Chandler Jones, Markus Golden and Kareem Martin.

Jarvis Jones, the 17th overall pick by the Steelers in 2013, was expected to be in the competition but has been injured most of training camp.

Pro Football Focus notes that Capi has been the Cardinals’ best pass rusher in the preseason with a game left.

Wile or Leone?

Asked by Calvisi how the punting competition between Richie Leone and Matt Wile has gone, Arians offered this:

“It’s still uncertain. I think Matt’s had a little more consistency the last two weeks, and we’ll go into next week — that’s the nice thing about being able to take all 89 guys into Denver and let them try one more time.”

Wile booted 49- and 36-yarders, pinning one inside the 20-yard line.

Leone also dropped one inside the 20 while punting for 55 and 47 yards.

No major injuries

Arguably the best news from the Falcons game is the Cardinals made it another outing without major injury.

Backup offensive lineup Ulrick John “got kicked in the ankle,” Arians said, while defensive tackle Olsen Pierre was put on concussion protocol.

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