Cardinals’ win offers little insight on key questions

Aug 11, 2018, 11:53 PM | Updated: Aug 12, 2018, 6:15 pm
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) hugs quarterback Chad Kanoff (6) after a touc...
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) hugs quarterback Chad Kanoff (6) after a touchdown pass against the Los Angeles Chargers during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Sam Bradford hasn’t thrown an incompletion, David Johnson is leading all NFL running backs in yards per carry and the Cardinals first-team defense came within a missed sack of pitching consecutive three-and-outs against the Los Angeles Chargers at University of Phoenix on Saturday.

I’ve seen enough to make playoff plans. You?

Sarcasm aside, nobody expects to glean much insight from a preseason NFL game. Some of us think they should play two instead of four — with running time — but the Cardinals’ 24-17 win over the Chargers offered fewer clues than usual.

“It’s always good to win, even in preseason,” coach Steve Wilks said. “We need to do a better job getting off the field on third down on defense, and we hurt ourselves with penalties, and on the offensive side of the ball we didn’t convert, 0 of 11, which is not good football.”

Most of those complaints centered on the second-and third-stringers because the starters only stayed for a cup of coffee.

Running back David Johnson carried for 14 yards on each of the Cardinals’ first two offensive plays, showing a flash of his former self before leaving the game for the night. Bradford threw one pass — a 6-yard completion to tight end Ricky Seal-Jones — before leaving after one series with the rest of the first-team offense.

The first-team defense pitched a three-and-out on L.A.’s first series, but it came against quarterback Cardale Jones, not Philip Rivers, who sat out the game. Arizona’s first-team unit only played one more series and if safety Antoine Bethea had corralled Jones in the backfield, that would have also ended in three plays instead of a Chargers field goal.

There wasn’t much to learn about the starters.

The only thing we know about Bradford is that he is still healthy after one preseason week.

The only thing we know about center Mason Cole, AQ Shipley’s replacement, is that the Cardinals had better find a veteran backup. Daniel Munyer was bounce-passing shotgun snaps to Josh Rosen which could be an art form if perfected, but is not Wilks’ preferred method. Evan Boehm has quickly become a spare and perhaps expendable part.

A few other observations:

— Running back Chase Edmonds’ stat line wasn’t all that impressive (five carries, 11 yards) but his second effort produced the Cardinals’ only offensive touchdown of the game, on the opening drive. Edmonds appeared to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage, but kept driving and climbed over a pile into the end zone for a 2-yard score.

— Jamar Taylor held up fine as the latest starting cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. He had a tackle, a pass breakup and a penalty.

— Rookie receiver Christian Kirk had a pair of catches on three targets, making him the only receiver to catch any of seven Arizona completions in the first half. Running back DJ Foster had two and tight ends Andrew Vollert, Gabe Holmes and Seals-Jones had one apiece.

— Jalen Tolliver had a 48-yard catch in the fourth quarter to set up the Cardinals’ go-ahead TD, but he was the only other receiver to catch a pass. If you were looking for separation by a potential No. 2 receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald, neither the opportunity nor the execution was there.

— Josh Rosen’s Arizona debut was uneven. He completed just 6 of 13 passes for 41 yards and the running game managed just two yards on four carries while he was in. Rosen wasn’t helped by an ineffective second-string offensive line, his receivers or the aforementioned bounce-passes, but he was also off target on some passes, took a delay of game penalty and nearly threw a pick-6.

“I thought I did some good things and some bad things, but for the most part I think it was a step in the right direction,” he said.

— On the plus side, the Cardinals defense held Los Angeles out of the end zone in the first half, had four sacks and forced four turnovers, including cornerback Bene Benwikere’s forced fumble early in the third quarter that linebacker Jeremy Cash returned 12 yards for a touchdown for a 14-3 lead. Mr. Preseason, Cap Capi, had three sacks and a forced fumble.

— Unfortunately for Cash, he was carted off the field later on a tackle attempt with a knee injury and did not return. Wilks did not have an update after the game. Cash is in the mix to make the 53-man roster so his loss could impact that position. Wilks said he was the only significant injury the Cardinals sustained in the game.

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