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Final preseason game on Thurs. night. "It's all about the kids." None of the Ones are expected to see action - which means 66 players remaining players will be battling for the remaining 31 roster spots or a spot on theon the practice squad. Unlike previous preseasons, the cutdown from 90 to 53 +PS will be done in one fell swoop after this game; so if you're hard-core and enjoy watching, say, a couple of obsure LB's fight for a spot on the final 53, this games for you.
Cardinal starters and key backups played a pretty solid game last week against a very solid Atlanta team. Chicago. True, there are still plenty of things to work on, but neither offense, defense or special teams units did much to embarrss themselves and enough big plays (by Smoke Brown, Ty Mathieu and others) enabled the Cards to breeze to a 24 - 14 win.
Since this upcoming game is 99% about "66 salmon swimming upstreamm", here's a quick summary of each position and battles to watch for.
Key roster battles to keep an eye on vs. the Falcons:
QB - No battles. We'll probably keep 3, with Stanton holding off Gabbert for #2)
RB - Aside from David Johnson, pretty much unresolved. Four backs (C Johnson, K Wlliams, A Ellington and E Penny) are fighting for three spots. I thought UDFA rook James Summers looked better than any of these guys vs. Atlanta, but figures to be a PS "sneakee."
WR - Smoke Brown showed Card fans why (when healthy), he belongs on the starting depth chart next to Fitz. Jaron Brown and JJ Nelson are likely shoe-ins to complete the top 4 spots. Which leaves a bevy of 7 other talented receivers (Golden, C Williams, Dobson, Ross, Hogan, Hubert and Agudosi) to duke it out for probably 2 remaining spots (with this much talent, Cards figure to keep 6 receivers). Golden has looked best of this bunch so far and, since Williams was our 3rd round draft pick, you'd figure he'd be a shoe-in for one of the six sports, but Williams hasn't been expecially "glue-handed" and Hogan and Agdosi are big physical guys. Anything can happen.
TE - Niklas and Gresham look like shoe-ins with Momah a close #3. Rookie Ricky Seals-Jones has turned a few heads, but figures to be another candidate for the PS if no other team snaps him up.
OL - Pretty deep unit. Starting 5 is mostly decided, with Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Boehm and Veldheer earning spots. But some of these guys are not known for their durability; which makes the 6, 7 & 8 spots on the OL all the more important. Front-runners figure to be Wetzel T-G and Toner C - G with vet Bergstrom G-C battling D Johnson for the final spot.
DL -Pretty good battle at the back-end. Probably a six-man rotation.Mauro, Peters, Rucker, Pierre, Gunter and Nkemdiche are probable locks. Nkemdiche has looked good and they like Pierre, but both have been nicked up. Figure X Williams to battle Pierre for the final spot, but newcome Peli Anau lfigures to be an interesting longshot
LB - A few injuries cloud the issue. C Jones and Golden return to man the edges (Both look really good). K Martin may have an inside edge for one of the two backup OLB spots, Capi The other OLB backup battle should be wide open - I like Capi and Bazzie. Inside, we'll probably start off the season with veteran Dansby lining up next to ( & mentoring) rookie Reddick. Bucannon will eventually start inside, but it's uncertain whether he'll be ready to roll Game #1. Battle for the final ILB backup spot figures to be between Josh Bynes (plug 'n play) and local hero, Scooby Wright III (Great on special teams)
DB - Looks like Bethel won the starting #2 spot opposite Peterson, with Brandon Williams shaking off the rookie yips to be a talented #3. Veteran Travon Williams figures to have the edge to win the #4CB spot. Four safeties figure to be T Branch, Bethea, Mathieu and Bubba Baker. Carter, Shelton, Ford or H Miller remain available as backups. (Ford and Miller can play CB or S)
ST - KIcking situation has become much more stable with addition of Dawson. Rumor has a free agent (Lee) being given a long, hard look.
Have you noted that our top 2 rookies (Reddick and Baker have each been paired up with and old timer (Dansby and Bethea). We can probably also assume that Fitz and our #3 dude (C Williams) are spending a lot of time together..
I'm not sure how it happened, but I come up with four remaining open spots on the 53-man roster. Logically, we'd keep a 5th RB, 4th TE, 9th OL and 9th DB, but (as BA suggests) the bottom 3 or 4 spots on the Final 53 will probably be filled by the best remaining 3 or 4 players (regardless of position) who can also play on special teams.
"Cards Score First/Lose Big."
The Bottom Line:
Let's get this straight. I hate losing - whether it be the Super Bowl or a "meaningless" preseason Game #5. The final score is a symbolic aggregation of whether the team and its specific players played well - or not. On that basis, "the Cards played poorly, and it matters.
That said, the game was all about answering questions about personnel and determining "who gets to stay in Arizona and who gets to flip burgers or sell insurance.
It started smashingly well for the Cardinal defense who (after Wile's punt pinned Denver back on its own 11 to open the game) bottled up the Broncos and set the stage for a 12-yard sack/safety executed by Alex Bazzie to give the Cards a 2 - 0 lead with just 5:28 off the clock. Score-wise, that was it for the Cardinals. But, with few exceptions, he answer to most personnel questions was that "there weren't very many answers."
More questions than answers in this game?
Penny got a good look and gained 77 yds. Was it enough to earn a roster spot?
Summers did not look as good as he did the previous week,
#6 WR remains an unresolved issue (no one especially flashed)
Nothing new re the offense and defensive lines
There may be one or two backup LB spots open with Cappi, Bazzi and Wheeler all figuring to have a shot of making the roster
Four safeties (Bethea, Mathieu, T Branch, B Baker) and Three #2 corners (Bethel, B Williams, T Williams) didn't play and figure to make the roster. There may be one or two vacant spots, but they figure to go to versatile guys (like Ford and Miller) who can play corner and safety. (Note - It seems as if Miller was always mentioned as "the guy who made the tackle" on Denver's long-gainer plays. This can be a good thing or a bad thing - i.e. did he let his man consistently get free? Or was he making TD saving tackles?)
Neither Wiley or Leone separated. Is FA Andy Lee still a possibility?
Source: NFL.com Website
Cards at 15:00
TB on KO. short passes by Gabbert and lots of inside running by Pennygot us out to the Denver 46, where Summers lost a yard and Gabbert couoldn't connect with Ross. Wile's punt was fair caught at the Denver 11.
Broncos at 10:15
On the third play from scrimmage, Sloter was sacked in the end zone by Alex Bazzie for a safety. Cards 2 - Broncos 0.
Cards at at 9:26
Cards returmed free kick to their own 43, but went 3 & out. Leone's punt was fair caught at the 16.
Broncos at 7:45
Cards held Broncs to 3 & out. Punt went out of bounds at the Cardinal 29
Cards at 5:37
Cards drive stalled at the Denver 35. Wile's 53-yard attempt was wide-right.
Broncos at 2:27
A 17-yard completion (Wright on tackle), a sack by Capi (for minus-6) and a 12-yard short passw over the middle (H Miller and Wheeler on the tackle) set things up at the Card 34 for a 52-yard FG by McManus. Broncos 3 - Cards 0.
Cards at 0:13
TB on KO. Penny for +2 to end the quarter.
- First Quarter Score: Denver 3 - Cards2.
Lots of runs by Penny., followed by runs of +1 and minus-1 by Sommers and an incompletion to Seals-Jones set up a 44-yard Wiley punt into the end zone for a touchback.
Broncos at 10:05
A 10-yard Wheeler sack capped a Denver 3 & out. Punt (net holding call on Bazzie) gave Cards the ball on the Denver 36.
Cards at 7:59
False start (K Johnson) and delay of game (T Knight) penalties forced another Cardinal 3 & out. Leone's punt was downed at the Denver 2.
Broncos at 5:07
TB on the KO. On the first play from scrimmage at his own 2, Sloter hit J Taylor on a short pass over the middle for +32 yards (Hayes on the tackle). He followed that with a 32-yard completion deep left to Nash (Miller on the tackle). Three plays later, Ridley picked up 27-yards off right tackle (vs. Miller) and on the next play took it in from the 3 for a TD (Miller on the tackle). Denver 10 - Cards 2.
Cards at 2:39
TB on the KO. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Knights pass (deep middle) for RS Jones was picked off by Dy Thomas and returned 58-yards for a Denver TD (repeating a pattern whereby the Cards give up a cheap turnover/TD right before halftime). Denver 17 - Cards 2.
Cards at 1:54
TB on the KO. After Penny gained 13-yds for an early first down, the Car drive stalled at their own 41. Wiley's 58 yard punt was returned to the Denver 9. (Unsportsmanlike penalty on Bewer moved ball to Denver's 25.
Broncos at 1:14
Cards opened with a 5-yd Tasini encroachment flag. A 14-yd comnpletion to Nash *Miller on the tackle) and 18-yard and 9-yd completions to M Brown set up a 44-yd McManus FG with 0:04 on the clock. Denver 20 - Cards 2.
Halftme Score: Denver 20 - Cards 2.
- Broncos at 15:00
- TB on the KO. 3 & out. Punt out of bounds at the Card 19.
- Cardinals at 7:21
- Penny gained 15-yds on the first 2 carries. Two plays later, Summers ran for minus-6 and no gain to force a Leone 51 yd punt which (net a Denver penalty) gave them the ball on their own 14.
- Broncos at 10:42
- Sloter engineered an 11 play drive which stalled at the Cardinal 6 and set up a 25-yd McManus FG. Denver 23 - Cards 2.
- Cardinals at 5:04,
TB on the KO. Summers ran for +1 and +10 on this series and recovered a T Knight fumble. Wile punted 49-yds. Ball (net Denver penalty) on the Denver 4.
- Broncos at 2:02
- Runs of 14 and 7 yds by Thompson and a 12 yd completion to Sharp (vs. Hayes) put the ball on the Denver 35 to end the quarter
- Third Quarrter Score: Denver 23 - Cards 2.
- Starting from their own 35, Denver gave the Cards a heavy dose of Ridley on a 13-play drive capped by Sloter's ddeep right pass to Scheu for a 21-yd TD. (Ridley carried 4 times for gains of +5, +2, +6 and +2). Denver 30 - Cards 2.
Cardinals at 9:13
- TB on the KO. Three & out. Leone's 34 yd punt fair caught at Denver 41.
Broncos at 7:22
Two plays later, Ford recovered a Denver fumble. at the Cardinal 43
Cardinals at 7:11
Cards ball at their own 43. Three & out. Wile's punt fair caught at the Denver 9
Broncos at 6:14
Three and out. Punt (net Agudosi flag) returned for no gain and spotted at the Card 22.
Cardinals at 3:50
8 plays (incl 5 runs by Summer for +5, +2, +5, +1, +6). Game over.
Final Score: Denver 30 - Cardinals 2
Notable Game Stats.
Ross, Agudosi and Valles each had 2 grabs.
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 38/Pass: 22).
Wile was 0 for 1 in FG's.
Net punting average: 39.4. Denver punter netted 44.5)
Tackles: Ford 6, Hayes, Lewis, Miller, Wright, Bazzie (4 apiece).
Bazzie and Wheeler had 1 sack apiece
Card QB's were sacked once
No picks by Cards. Knight picked off once
Third Down Efficiency. Cards were 5 for 15 (33%) Denver was 3 for 14 27%) in 3rd down efficiency.
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards 0 for 0 (0%).
Penalties: Cards were penalized 12 times/(Denver 8)
Time of Possession: Cards 31:34 - Broncs 28:26
Card defense gave up an average of 4.0 yds per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 3.9)
The Cardinal defense was smokin' coming out of the gate. Backup LB's Bazzie, Wheeler and Capi made plays on defense
Card QBs were only sacked once.
We held Denver to 3 for 11 in 3rd down conversions.
The Dark Side
Few questions answered - at RB, WR, TE and P
We were penalized 12 times (vs. Denver 6)
We gave up another long turnover/TD right before halftime.
Summers showed promise a week ago but didn't deliver on it much in this game.
Fewer answers than hoped for. Worried about team falling into "losing habits" too often.,