After carefully breaking down the tape of the Cards game against the Dallas Cowboys, I come away with some encouragement as well as some concerns, but the encouragement out weighs the concern in my opinion. One thing that we as fans keep losing site of is that this is a new team doing what all new teams do, and that is use the preseason to put together who you will be in the regular season.
Critic fans love to jump the gun with a “what have you done for me lately”prospective, but that outlook can not be applied to this team because this is not your last years team. Lets calm down and see the encouragement that I saw in the reviewing of the game tape.
The one thing that has been very consistent so far, is the most important aspect for the Cardinals team, and that is the play of the first team offensive line. If this area remains consistent then expect the cards offense to continue to be able to move the ball up and down the field. I noticed that Daryn Colledge was in the starting right guard position replacing the surprising Paul Fanaika, who did not have the same productive game he had last week. Colledge was said to have played the game with a hairline fracture in his leg and did an excellent job, so I think that will be the same next week.
The teams first drive resulted in a three and out, their second drive stalled on the first bad throw by Carson Palmer intended for Alfonso Smith on a slant route in the end zone, Palmer threw the ball well behind him and the drive ended in the teams first of 4 field goals. Palmer before that play was calling for the snap at the line and it appeared center Lyle Sendlein did not snap the ball when Palmer expected it and the ball hit his chest first then he quickly got control and that threw the timing of the play off, resulting in the behind the receiver pass and the start of that theme for the offense, bad timing all day.
But the third drive the offense looked very good in moving the ball down the field, it has been a long time sense we have seen the cardinals go on a long 10 or more play drive and have control of time of possession. The third drive is what I believe we will expect to see more of once all of the timing issues are solved between Palmer and his receivers.
The third drive was 14 plays, 87 yards, 5 first downs, and used the last 8 minutes of the first quarter in time of possession. Palmer connected with Fitzgerald four times on the drive,with the first catch being taken away after Levi Brown nullified a big 24 yard play with a holding penalty. The only problem with this drive is that it did not result in any points and stalled in the redzone where the Cards have had issues in both preseason games.
The last play of that drive Palmer had a wide open Mendenhall in the flat on fourth down, and he rolled to his right, saw pressure and hurried his pass and threw it to the feet of Mendenhall,which is Palmer second bad throw of the game.
I love the agressive play calling on this drive, which has chunk throws and completions and a good mix of running the ball as well by starting running back Rashard Mendenhall who played in his first preseason action of the season. Mendenhall looked like he had a burst in his first cut, and had much energy carrying the ball 7 times for 32 yards, and did an excellent job in pass protection as well.
Redzone is the main issue of the offense but before they can get that right they must continue to work on the timing issues that plagued the first team offense. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald started out on the same page then on their final drive Fitz ran an out route and Palmer threw the ball on an in route, before that miscue, Andre Roberts on 2nd down ran an in route and Palmer threw the ball outside. On 1st down of this same drive Palmer threw his 3rd bad pass over the head of Roberts on a deep out.
Palmer and the receivers looked like they were running two different plays on the same downs and leaving confusion on the faces of everyone coming off the field for the night. Palmer finished the night 7/15 for 66 yards, and of his eight incomplete passes 3 were very bad passes and the others were more within the norm of a game.
The defense had a solid outing when it came to taking the ball away, they forced 5 turnovers but also got gashed a lot down the field for big plays two weeks straight, and the defensive front did not get much pressure on quarterback Tony Romo, although Calais Campbell got pressure on one play up the middle but that was more due to Dallas running a screen play where you usually allow the pressure.
So before we crown the defense lets wait until they are covering the deep ball better without holding (Peterson), for the second week in a row cornerback Patrick Peterson was flagged for holding on to a receiver, but nevertheless the defense did bend but they did not completely break. Another area that was absolutely excellent was the special teams in covering kicks and punts, the unit played with a reckless abandon attitude and even caused a turnover.
Punter Dave Zastudil kicked the ball within the 20 yard line on every punt, and kicker Jay Feeley with the exception of one bad kick did connect on 4 of 5 and one of those a 53 yarder. This unit with specialist Lorenzo Alexander and Jasper Brinkley and a host of others will continue to pursue the ball and tackles in this fashion, look for the Cards to add a few more surprising outcomes to games they are not expected to win.
With the performance of the defense and special teams should always result in a blowout win, but due to the offenses timing and redzone issues they had to settle for 4 Jay Feeley field goals and a 12 to 7 win.
I feel really good that the offense can move the ball and keep time of possession, and the defense can take away the ball, that formula will net wins more times than not, this team is new and are building what they will be in the preseason. We as fans want the finish result in two games and that is just not going to happen. I believe after the next preseason game and perhaps 3 to 4 of the regular season we should start getting the consistent result of what this team will be, but the ground work being laid looks good to me despite some of the imperfections.