GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 17: Cornerback Justin Bethel #31 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates in the endzone with wide receiver DeMarco Sampson #10 after scoring a 19 touchdown following a blocked punt against the Oakland Raiders during the second quarter of the NFL preseason game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 17, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
There was a lot to be happy about with the win...and some things that hopefully get fixed.
The Arizona Cardinals got to add one to the preseason win column over the Oakland Raiders. But, being the preseason, a win is sort of empty. Not completely, but a little bit, since it doesn't really matter in the end. However, there were definitely some positives. There were also some things that didn't go quite so well.
The defense forced turnovers:
This was one area in which the defense did not do well a season ago. On Friday, they got three in the first half. Kerry Rhodes picked off a pass that Carson Palmer threw inaccurately and almost took it to the end zone. Daryl Washington forced a fumble and Stewart Bradley recovered it. Reggie Walker forced a fumble that ended up in the arms of Clark Haggans, who them promptly fumbled the ball back. But the starters got three turnovers in less than a half of play. If they do that consistently, they will win games because we know that winning the turnover battle is the biggest factor in winning games.
Special teams play was special:
Patrick Peterson returned a punt 46 yards to set up the opening touchdown. It was a Peterson special. It looked electrifying and appeared he might take it all the way. He came off the field afterward and told Coach Ken Whisenhunt, "I'm back!" Justin Bethel blocked a punt, recovered it and scored. He also blocked an extra point. Between big plays on special teams and a defense taking the ball away, you have to feel like the offensive problems that there may be can be survived.
Ryan Williams is back:
He carried the ball five times for 25 yards and a touchdown. His 15-yarder to the left was exciting. He moves his feet so quickly. It is hard to explain, but you just feel like there is a big play waiting to happen -- something that fans have not felt form a running back in quite some time. Take a healthy Ryan Williams and a healthy Beanie Wells, and it makes me giddy just thinking about how effective the ground game might be.
The offense started quickly:
In 2011, the Arizona offense scored a total of 36 first quarter points in 16 games. They scored seven after seven plays. In this case, it was Kevin Kolb who led the drive, but John Skelton also got a quick score after the fumble recovery the defense kept, putting the ball in the end zone after four plays. If the offense can get on the board quickly, the defense's job will be so much easier.
The quarterback job might have been cleared up:
Kolb had a great first series, but then turned into pass rush fodder, getting sacked three times in two drives, once for a safety and getting hit with a grounding penalty. John Skelton was effective in his one drive and made good, quick decisions. It certainly looks like he has the lead at this point.
The quarterback position might not be any clearer:
We say that Skelton is the favorite, but that doesn't mean it is a done deal. If you look at the first drive by both QBs, you have Kolb 3/3 for 22 yards and Skelton 3/3 for 23 yards and a TD. Kolb led a 41-yard drive and Skelton led a 23-yard drive. Both scores were set up by big plays immediately before. Kolb and the offense fell apart after that drive. Skelton didn't get another shot. Since Skelton looks like he will get the Kolb treatment next week, we still need to see if Skelton can replicate a drive or if the offense will do what it did for Kolb -- stop blocking people.
Levi Brown might be out for a while:
It isn't certain, but left tackle Levi Brown might have a serious tricep injury. There was a time when the thought of his leaving the lineup would bring happiness to fans. That shouldn't be the case now. The options at tackle behind him are a pair of journeymen and a player who has been active for one NFL game in his career. We might actually cry for Levi.
The right side of the offensive line looked bad:
There are two games left for figuring things out. Hopefully they do.
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