New era notes: BJ Ojulari makes debut in Cardinals’ preseason finale vs. Vikings
Aug 26, 2023, 1:02 PM | Updated: 5:36 pm
(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
It’s been a bumpy road for Arizona Cardinals rookie linebacker BJ Ojulari, who was limited for most of training camp with a knee issue. He was one of Arizona’s lone rookies without a preseason snap entering play Saturday.
That all changed in Saturday’s 18-17 win against the Minnesota Vikings, however, with Ojulari not only playing, but starting in the preseason finale.
He finished the contest with one tackle.
Regardless of the stat sheet and snaps taken, it’s a good taste for the 2023 second-round pick out of LSU.
Better late than never.
On (Mc)Cloud 9
Ojulari may have made his preseason debut on Saturday, but it was newcomer Zach McCloud who stole the show defensively behind a trio of sacks and six tackles, both team highs. He recorded a pair of sacks in the second quarter before adding another in the third.
The second-year linebacker signed on with Arizona this past Tuesday.
It may be tough to crack a roster spot with an OLBs room led by Zaven Collins, Dennis Gardeck, Cameron Thomas and Victor Dimukeje, but McCloud’s tape from Saturday could catch the eyes of other teams in need of linebacking depth.
Unfortunately, not all of McCloud’s plays were highlights, tackling his own teammate — Sean Chandler — following the safety’s interception in the fourth quarter.
One last look at Tune
Ojulari wasn’t the only rookie getting a starting nod against the Vikings, with signal caller Clayton Tune leading the charge for the first quarter and a half of action.
It was a mixed showing for the young passer.
Minnesota’s defense was quick to get after the rookie, strip-sacking the QB three plays into Arizona’s opening drive. The Vikings needed just one play to score on the other end.
The rookie bounced back the following drive, helping lead Arizona on a 9-play, 59-yard scoring drive capped off by a 38-yard field goal.
Those would be the only points the Cardinals would put on the board under Tune, though, with the rookie seeing one last drive end with a punt before turning over the reins to David Blough in the second quarter.
Tune ended the game completing 9 of his 12 passes for 85 yards and the sack.
Unlike the rookie, Blough managed to find the end zone, completing a 26-yard pass to wide receiver Davion Davis for a third-quarter touchdown before running in a fourth-quarter score.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 26, 2023
As far as where Tune and Blough sit on the depth chart, that is very much up in the air following Arizona’s acquisition of quarterback Josh Dobbs on Thursday.
Per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro, the Cardinals view the former Cleveland Browns QB as their likely No. 2 option behind Colt McCoy, essentially leapfrogging Tune and Blough without Dobbs taking a snap with his new team.
“It’s the last (preseason) game of the year, Brent, can’t hold anything back,” Dan Fouts said during the infamous Bourbon Bowl.
OK, maybe the QB-turned-broadcaster wasn’t talking about exhibition ball, but the quote rings true for linebacker Jesse Luketa.
Throughout Saturday’s matchup, the second-year pro showed off his versatility, playing linebacker, fullback and on special teams.
He was even the lone Cardinals representative for the coin toss.
Luketa has been among the surprises this offseason, seemingly playing himself into a role at pass rusher.
Being an additional asset in the other two phases only helps his case when it comes to landing a roster spot.
Corey makes his case
Cardinals running back Corey Clement made the most of his extended reps on Saturday, leading the ground attack behind 79 yards on 14 carries. He also caught two balls for five yards.
The veteran is in a battle with second-year pro Keaontay Ingram, who got the start against the Vikings, for the role of RB2 behind James Conner.