Arizona Cardinals: 3 biggest preseason surprises heading into final week

With so much mystery surrounding the Arizona Cardinals young roster, there have been numerous surprises throughout August.
Aug 19, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Davion Davis (10) is unable to
Aug 19, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Davion Davis (10) is unable to / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Young rosters and new coaching staffs bring surprises with them, and the Arizona Cardinals are no different. In Week 1 of the preseason, the Redbirds defense held Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos offense in check before they enjoyed a second solid outing vs. the Kansas City Chiefs starters. 

The Cards also have a better-than-advertised receiving unit, with a potential WR1 in Marquise Brown and an intriguing rookie in Michael Wilson, among others. But the fringe prospects have been fun to watch over the past two weeks. 

And finally, Arizona may have found one of the NFL’s best punters in Nolan Cooney. We will talk about Cooney, the Cards receivers, and their surprising defense below in more detail. 

Arizona Cardinals 3 biggest preseason surprises

1 - First Team defense’s success vs. Mahomes, Wilson

While Russell Wilson’s career is noticeably on the downturn, most of us thought there was no way we would see the Arizona Cardinals starting defense enjoy similar success vs. Patrick Mahomes. And while there were some dropped passes that helped out the Cards defense, they did enough to prevent the league’s best quarterback from throwing all over them.

They also pressured Mahomes properly - he’s not the quarterback who you pressure up the middle, but instead, you need to hit him at various angles. The Cards did that, and sent Mahomes scrambling backward, exposing the one flaw in the quarterback’s game.

2 - Bottom half of the Cardinals receiver room

In a perfect world, the Cards would keep about eight, perhaps nine, receivers on their “final” 53-man roster. Guys like Andre Baccellia, Daniel Arias, and Kaden Davis have each made their respective cases, but there just isn’t enough room to keep all of them.

Ideally, general manager Monti Ossenfort can re-sign a couple of these guys to the Cardinals practice squad, allowing them to stick around in some capacity. And if injuries or inefficacy strikes the Cardinals projected Top 5 receivers, then perhaps Ossenfort and the coaching staff call one of those guys up.

3 - Nolan Cooney easily winning his position battle

Nolan Cooney could be the Arizona Cardinals secret weapon this season, and rarely do we see such an honor go to a punter. But if Cooney plays the way he did in Week 2, then opponents are going to have lengthy fields to work with. 

But Cooney won this job with ease, and it was one that I felt would be a heated battle. If Cooney performed like the average NFL punter, then Matt Haack is in the desert for another week. At this point, however, Cooney is already looking like he belongs in the Top 10 at the position.