We know, we know: Preseason games don't count. It's all about roster battles and peeling some of the rust back.
Two questions at the top of everyone's mind: (1) Is DJ Humphries ready for prime time? and (2) Doubly so for Brandon Williams at CB.
Mistake-prone Cards lose preseason home opener
The Bottom Line:
Cards starters opened up OK but mistakes caused them to fall behind early, they didn't perform consistently to catch up and made mistakes resulting in big plays. (Note - Lost in the shuffle was the absence of sacks by Cardinal reserve pass rushers. Oakland made fewer mistakes and executed more 2H big plays to win going away.
Raider QB's picked on rookie CB Brandon Williams throughout the first half (though the cup-half-full is that Williams and Cardinal defensive coaches have plenty of game-footage to review and learn from). You seldom see right tackles flash anything game-changing, so the best we need to say about Humphries is that we don't recall his doing anything embarrassing.
Palmer looked solid in his brief appearance, but Stanton through a bad pick in Oakland territory. Barkley and Coke both had their good and bad moments. You could see their impressive upsides, but their inconsistency is likely to pull them back. Two areas of play causing reason for concern: Lack of pop by Special Teams (their return guys gained solid yardage/ours didn't) and inability by our WR reserves to make clutch passes. Perhaps the most impressive showing by a Cardinal was at TE where Troy Nikklas showed why he was worth being a 2nd round pick.
Cards starters began in promising fashion, but a series of miscues caused them to fall behind early and they were never able tp dig their way out of the hole. Most disappointing was to see a pattern emerging where the Cards would surrender possession due to a miscue (i.e. sack, fumble, pick, XP-miss) and then compound the error one or two plays later by giving up an easy deep score.
Raiders received. Washington returned the KO 31 yds to the Raider 31. Drive stalled at the Raider 41. TB on the punt. Palmer led the Cards to the Raider 7 in 9 plays where Catanzaro was good from 25. Cards 3 - Raiders 0.
Holton returned the KO 43 yards to the Raider 35. Carr led the Raiders to the Card 36 where their drive stalled and Janikowski made it look easy from 53 yds out. Cards 3 - Raiders 3.
K Williams returned the KO to the Card 22. Stanton in for Palmer. Cards held to 3 & out. Butler's punt downed at the Raider 23. McGloin in for Carr. Five plays later, the Raiders punted from their own 39. Nelson (who was carrying the ball like a loaf of bread) fumbled. Raiders recovered at the Cardinal 19. On the first play from scrimmage, McGloin hit a wide-openWalford down the left seam for a TD. (It looked like Marqui Christian blew the coverage). Raiders 10 - Cards 3.
Ellington returned the KO to the Cardinal 12. On the very next play, Stanton was picked off by N Allen. Two plays after that, McGloin hit Holmes for a 10-yard TD. (Talk about an El Foldo!). Raiders 17 - Cards 3.
Ellington returned the KO to the Card 17 to end the quarter
1st Quarter Score: Raiders 17- Cards 3.
A 35-yard run by Ellingtom and an impressive catch and run down the left sideline by Nikklas set up a 5-yard Ellington TD run. Raiders 17- Cards 10.
TB on the KO. Cards held Raiders to 3 & out. Punt fair caught by Nelson at the Card 22. Barkley in for Stanton. Cards held to 3 & out. Punt (with a 10-yard Raider penalty tacked on) gave Raiders the ball on their own 35. On the 4th play from scrimmage, Brandon Williams recovered a Raider fumble. Cards ball at their own 37. Barkley picked his way to the Raider 23, where Catanzaro was wide from 41. The two teams exchanged possessions and the Raiders ran out of real estate and clock to close out the half. Raiders 17- Cards 10.
Broncs ran Ball up the middle to end the half.
First Half Score: Raiders 17- Cards 10.
Cards returned the 2H KO to their own 22. On the 8th play of their possession - after a penalty on Nikklas nullified a 5-yard TD run by Taylor - Barkley threw a pick that was returned to the Raider 27. Cards held the Raiders to 3 & out. Touchback on the punt. Card possession stalled on the 9th play and Swanson's punt from the Raider 42 was fair caught at the Raider 9. On the 4th play from scrimmage (after D Washington turned a short pass into a 32-yard gain) Atkinson ran around right end, cut back against the grain and motored for 53 yards and a TD. Raiders 24 - Cards 10.
TB on the KO. Cards (with Raider penalty tacked on) took over their own 30. Cards held to 3 & out. Fumble on the punt (caused by Bouka) was recoveres by Raiders who took over on their own 28 as the quarter ended
Third Quarter Score: Raiders 24 - Cards 10.
The two teams exchanged 3 & outs and then traded possessions two more times with Coker in for Barkley. After Coker was sacked for minus-6 on a 4th & 5, the Raiders took over on the Cardinal 44 where Atkinson circled left end for 9 yards and then followed that up with a 35 yard TD run around right end to close out the scoring. (Goodwin got a good look at 247 RB Elijah Penny by handing him the ball 6 straight times to close out the game. Raiders 31 - Cards 10.
Final Score: Raiders 31 - Cards 10.
Notable Game Stats.
Barkley was 8 for 24 (121 yards, 0 TD and 1 picks). Other QB's threw 3 or less times.
Penny carried 15 times for 43 yards.Ellington gained 41 yards on 3 carries. K Williams gained 39 yards on 6 carries. D Johnson picked up 31 yards on 3 carries.
Max number of catches were by Shipley and Moma (3 apiece). Nikklas caught 2 for 44 yards.
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 35 /Pass: 40).
Catanzaro was 1 for 2 on FG's
Swanson outpunted Butler (but not by much).
Christian led the team in tackles (5) followed by Farley (4).
Card QB's were sacked one time (Coker). Clemons forced a fumble.
Cards were 5 for 16 (31%) in Third Down Efficiency. Raiders were 3 for 12 (25%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 1 for 3 (33%). Raiders 2 for 2 (100%)
Penalties: Cards were penalized 7.9 times (compared to Raider's' 11)
Time of Possession: Cards 35:22 - Raiders .24:38
Card defense gave up an average of 2.0 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 49)
Palmer looked relatively sharp.
Nikklas looked like a man among boys.
David Johnson looked ready to repeat last year's exploits.
We're deep at RB
Marqui Christian was in on a bunch of big plays
Starting (& backup) front sevens look solid and deep.
The Dark Side
Too many blunders (turnovers) usually followed by big Raider scores
Unaggressive special teams play
Brandon Williams has a full agenda ahead of him (as do a number of DB's on a deep roster)>
Catanzara missed a chipster.
Butler does not excite us.
I know; I know: "It's just the first preseason game" and our starters were only in for a series or two, but there's been a lot of mouth-shooting by local media and some players about "how the Cardinal team is loaded and are right up there among Super Bowl contenders." Well, we lost. We lost by a big margin. We didn't look especially good in losing. And we will remain a "losing football team - long on potential...until we aren't..
The way I evaluate football teams is: (1) they need to play at a high level for three consecutive games before they can be considered "good"...(2) when there are legitimate excuses for why a team plays bad in any aspect of their game, regardless of how they're justified, those weaknesses should remain "areas of concern" until they are corrected (& remain corrected for 3 straight games...(3) most if not all teams struggle with success (& just because a player or player feels "the heat is off" doesn't mean they can breathe easy and take their foot off the puzzle. Maintaining a consistent level of high intensity is a key component of championship football and isn't as easy as you'd think.
We lost big. There are probably legitimate (& correctable) reasons for our losing; but this doesn't mean that the loss (& the way we lost) shouldn't be considered a big deal.
Next Friday...San Diego....Sic 'em!