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Preseason games are mainly "barometers" (to gauge how crisp the offense looks, how well the OL is jelling, how well our defenders know their assignments - that sort of stuff). Even more important, they're "auditions" (for comparing players fighting for roster spots and to see which players blossom - or don't shine - "when the bright lights are turned on." The first units are expected to be in for roughly 15 snaps(i.e. the better part of the first quarter). What I will be zeroing in on:
(Please)! No major injuries...Chemistry between Palmer and his pass catchers ...How well our starting OL protects Palmer and whether they open up gaping holes in the run game...Massie vs. Fanaika; Coop vs. Watford...How well our substitute centers do in place of Sendlein...I want to see whether Smokie Brown, Ted Ginn and Jaron Brown are as good against real opponents as they are in practice...Do Baumann, Parmele or Thigpen give us home run depth behind Ellington?...How's Logan Thomas progressing - Is he the real deal? At DT, Is Gaston the real deal?...Any emerging pass rushers?...Are Minter and Foote the answer inside? How good has Bethel become at CB...How about ou young safeties, Buck and TJ? Is "the Cat" a legitimate challenger to Feely?"
Cards dismember Texans 32 - Zip
The Bottom Line:
The best preseason performance Ive ever seen by a Cardinal football team. (I watched it in "real time" thanks to the Internet and my trusty I-Pad). Compared to other preseason games (where it seemed like there were way more empty seats in the stands than full one, the stands at U o P looked to be at full-capacity and were rockin' & rollin'.
In our wildest dreams, we couldn't have expected a better initial preseason outing. The starting unit, led by Carson Palmer sliced and diced the Houston #1 defense so adeptly that (with the exception of G Jonathan Cooper) Coach Arians rested them after the first Cardinal possession. (That certainly had to help on the injury front - since our #1 guys weren't in there long enough to risk getting hurt). If there was one negative, it was the number of penalties (22) racked up by both clubs; however, this could have been the result of the League seeking to make a statement regarding certain infractions (like "hands to the face" and "defensive grabbing"). Larsen - in for Sendlein - and Cooper gave up a penalty and a sack (I'm not sure who committed which).
The two "Brown Brothers" (Smokie and Jaron) were "as advertised" - Smokie got open a lot, was thrown-at a lot and caught a lot. Jaron went up in traffic to make a couple of tough grabs. (I don't recall seeing much if anything of Ted Ginn - Bretton Golden returned most if not all the punts and kickoffs. Taylor got most of the early inside carries. I thought Dwyer ran "tougher." Parmele (considered a long shot to make the roster) showed a little bit of zipity-doo dah and could provide decent backup home run depth behind Ellington. Logan Thomas was in for almost the entire second half - I wanted to see what his ratio of "good plays" to "foul ups" would be - it was somewhere between 9 to 1 and 8 to 2. He displayed outstanding arm strength, better than expected (though by no means perfect) accuracy and generally made the right decision to locate the open man. He took a few licks, but, on one red-zone play, moved up into and through the pocket to locate an open man in the end zone and zip it in there. (A word of caution - he still has a long way to go - but it was an impressive initial outing).
Minter was aggressive vs. the run (maybe too aggressive on one down early in the game, where he sliced through the LOS, bounced off the ball-carrier and missed the tackle. But other than that, he and Foote were solid while they were in there. Bethel and Powers provided a physical presence in their role as backup corners, though I'm pretty sure Bethel was flagged early in the first quarter. Bucannon and Jefferson had solid, dependible outings (The entire #1 defense anticipated everything Houston threw at them and played as if they had absorbed the playbook into their DNA). Catanzara was 100% solid on kickoffs and FG's. Zastudil pinned down Houston with a gorgeous punt late in the game.
To put the final icing on the cake - late in the 4Q - Jo Jo DIckson (possibly worth keeping if for no other reason than his name) sliced up the middle on an inside blitz to nail the Houston QB (Savidge) for a Cardinal safety.
Fun game. I just hope our guys realize that every game isn't likely to be quite so easy.
Cards received (Golden returned the KO to our own 21) and Palmer and our #1 offense sliced and diced their way to a TD (on a 7 yard strike to Fitz). Other key plays included a 25-yard completion to Smokie Brown, a 38-yard pass and run to Housler and a 10-yard completion to Jaron Brown. On the negative side - Palmer got sacked by Watt on the second play from scrimmage (Coop was the culprit) and a "hands" flag on Larsen nullified a 13-yard TD strike to Carlson. Cards 7 - Texans 0.
Cardinal defense held Houston to 3 & out...A holding call on Bethel on the punt pinned the Cards back on their own 17...(Stanton and the #2 unit in for Palmer and the #1 unit)...Stanton QB'd a 9-play touchdown drive capped by a 5-yard TD completion from Stanton to Jaron Brown...Other key plays - lots of inside running by Stepfan Taylor....a 39-yard interference call forced by Smokie Brown...Cards 14 - Texans 0.
Houston returned the KO to their own 18...On the third play from scrimmage, Fitzpatrick's pass intended for Fiederwicz was batted around and intercepted by Cromartie who returned it to the Houston 12...A dropped pass by Smokie B was instrumental in the Cards going 3 & out and settling for a 32-yard Catanzaro FG. Cards 17 - Texans 0.
Houston returned the KO to their own 13. Grimes ran twice to pick up a first down as the quarter ended. First Quarter Score: Cards 17 - Houston 0.
A couple of flags (on Rucker and C Taylor) helped Houston move to the Cardinal 41, but the drive fizzled and Houston's punt was fair caught by Golden at the Cardinal 5-yard line... Stanton was able to move the Cards out of the shadow of their own end zone, but eventually the drive stalled and Zastudil's punt was downed at the Houston 3-yard line...The Texans moved to their own 19 but were forced to punt..Holding penalty (Powers) forced us to start from our own 15...Overcoming a holding penalty (Nicklas) and offensive pass interference flag (Golden), Stanton moved the offense to the Houston 10-yard line in 8 plays, where "The Cat" connected from 28 to increase the Cardinal lead. Key plays were completions of 10 and 22-yards from Stanton to Smokie Brown. Cards 20 - Texans 0.
- 1:20 left til haftime...Houston returned the KO to their own 16 and made it to the Cardinal 22 in 7 plays where Fitzpatrick's pass was picked off by Benard. Key plays of the Houston drive were a 23-yard Fitzpatrick scramble and completions of 12 and 24 yards.Stanton took a knee on the final play of the half. Halftime Score:
Cards 20 - Texans 0.
Houston returned the KO to their own 10...(Keenam in for Fitzpatrick)...Three Houston penalties eventually forced them to punt from their 21 to where it was returned to the Cardinal 33...Logan Thomas in for Stanton. As expected it was a mixed bag: He, among other things, got sacked twice during the series (once for minus-6 and the other for minus-10). There was also an aborted snap. He did complete a 18-yarder to Powell and 10-yarder to Golden, but eventually we had to punt from the Houston 49...Punt was returned to the Houston 15 where we (& the refs) held them to 3 & out...A holding penalty on T Williams on the punt gave us the ball on our own 26, where Thomas led the team on an impressive 15-play drive resulting in another Catanzaro FG (this one from 25-yards) to widen our lead. Drive moved into the 4th quarter. Third Quarter Score: Cards 20 - Texans 0.
- Card drive stalled at the Houston 5 where Catanzaro booted home the 25-yarder. Key plays were completions of 21-yards to Ozier and a 15-yarder from Thomas to Hardy (plus a lot of carries by Parmele. Cards 23 - Texans 0.
- Touchback on the KO. We held Houston to 3 & out. Punt was fair caught by Dunn at our own 31...This time Thomas engineered a 14-play TD drive capped by a pretty 12-yard scramble and TD completion (Thomas to Buckner)..Workhorse on this drive was Bauman (7 carries)...Other key plays were a 13-yard Bauman carry and an 11-yard completion to Powell..... Cards 30 - Houston 0.
- 1:53 left...Houston was pinned back on its 7-yard line. Two plays later (on its 8), J J Dickson came shooting up the inside gap to nail Savage for a safety. Cards 32 - Houston 0.
- Game over.
- Final Score: Cards 32 - Houston 0.
Passing Efficiency: Palmer was 5 for 5, 84 yards and a TD. Stanton was 11 for 17, 152 yards and a TD. Thomas was a pretty impressive 11 for 12, 113 yards and a TD.
Run Game: Most carries were 7 each by Bauman and Parmale. Longest gain was 13-yards by Bauman. Total Ground Yards: 81.
Receiving: 12 different pass catchers caught at least one ball - Golden: 7 for 45. Smokie Brown: 5 for 87. Powell: 3 for 74.
Defense: Statistically, no single player stood out.
Run/Pass Ratio: Rush: 37/Pass: 34
Sacks: Defense racked up 2 sacks (Dickson 1.0, Tracy 0.5, D Johnson 0.5). Our QB's were sacked three times
Leading Tacklers: McCann and Rucker had 4 tackles apiece..
Field Goals: Catanzaro was 3 for 3.
Turnover Ratio: +2 (We had 2 picks and weren't intercepted. Neither team lost a fumble).
Penalties: 10 for 89 yards (Houston was penalized 13 times for 126).
3rd Down Efficiency: Cards 64%/Texans: Ze-e-ro.
Time of Possession: Cards 42:07/Texans:17:53
Palmer was perfect, Stanton can be trusted as our #2. Thomas made far more plays than he botched.
We seldom, if ever lost yardage on running plays.
We're loaded at WR - Both Browns were as-advertised.
Our O-line by & large protected all three QB's (although Watt got in there once).
Our defense gave up zero points.
No one looked lost out there or appeared "tricked" on any play.
No major gaffes by our ILB'sOur DB's were 3-deep great.
The Dark Side
This is one of those times where we're better off letting this game speak for itself - "a work of art." Note - Since it is a preseason game, it doesn't count in the standings - i.e. there are no "laurels" to rest on - only our next game to prepare for and play hard in. (We now have a reputation to protect).