The Arizona Cardinals opened their 2016 pre-season schedule falling to the Oakland Raiders 31-10 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The Cards started slow, falling behind 17-3 at the end of the first quarter and never recovered.
Here are five things we learned in the loss.
Welcome to ‘The Show,’ Rook…Cornerback Brandon Williams got his early NFL baptism by fire against the talented Derek Carr and his skilled group of receivers. Carr hit Michael Crabtree for 16 yards on the Raiders first offensive play, then just missed connecting with Amari Cooper who beat Williams with a double move deep in front of the Oakland sideline. The third-round pick from Texas A&M saw far more snaps than the other starters and improved as the game wore on but was beaten for a touchdown by Andre Holmes on a near perfect fade throw from Oakland backup Matt McGloin. “I thought Brandon competed really well,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “He held his own…Brandon really played well.”
Work In Progress…Williams wasn’t the only young starter to see extended playing time. Second-year tackle D.J. Humphries had his hands full with Khalil Mack but eventually got help from David Johnson. “I think Khalil Mack is probably the second best pass rusher in the game behind Von Miller,” Carson Palmer said. “For D.J. to start off his career against that, I think it’s a great confidence builder. I thought he did a great job.” Humphries also helped spring Andre Ellington for a 35-yard burst early in the second quarter.
A Stable Full of Horses…Maybe the biggest bright spot was the work of the Bird Gang’s quartet of running backs. Johnson, Ellington, Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams combined to rush for 107 yards on 14 carries (7.6 yards per attempt) and a score in just one half. Each flashed in pass protection when needed, as well. Arians goal with the group is clear. “The backfield,” he said tapping his knuckle on the post-game podium. “Just get them healthy to the first game.”
Nothing Special…This is the time of year for teams to “work out the kinks” and there’s no doubt Bruce Arians and his staff will be paying particularly close attention to all phases of the Cards’ special teams this week in San Diego. “Average at best,” Arians said of the group. “I didn’t think our kickers kicked very well.” J.J. Nelson fumbled a punt which Oakland recovered at the Arizona 19 and scored on the next play. Chandler Cantanzaro missed a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter. Both coverage units struggled at times, as well.
Patience in Perspective…the first pre-season game is usually the ugliest and Friday was no different. There were plenty of mistakes, both mentally and physically, but most importantly no key players were lost to injury. The next four weeks are, in many ways, simply survival for the two-deep roster until the 16-week grind begins for real on September 11th against the Patriots in what will certainly be a much different atmosphere and intensity than what we saw against Oakland.