However, even I was interested to see what the Cardinals and Titans would look like when they met in Week 3 of preseason. Obvious attention was going to be paid to the quarterbacks on both sides, but this game told me a lot more about what to expect from both teams going forward.
Here’s three things that interested me on either side of the ball as I watched the entire first half and bits of the third quarter until the starters came out.
Arizona Cardinals – Three Things of Note
1) It’s easy to see why Skelton has the edge
With John Skelton you get a player who can make all the throws. The good ones, the bad ones and the downright ugly ones. His interception was a perfect example of this, as he made a simply boneheaded decision to try and defy the laws of physics and beat triple coverage. It didn’t work, though to his credit he would later go on to throw two picture-perfect balls to tight ends down the seam (though one was dropped).
Despite that horrid interception, Skelton looked pretty composed in the pocket and didn’t do an awful lot wrong. That was in stark contrast to the skittish Kevin Kolb who was nice enough to demonstrate all his problems on one play. Despite the Titans sending just three rushers leaving him a completely clean pocket to work in, Kolb moved out to the flats and hurried his decision making. The result was an interception that trumped Skelton’s for sheer idiocy. He looked better after this pick, but the good work there was largely undone by throwing a pick-six on a ball that convinced the Titans they needn’t have their first-string defense out there to cope with Kolb.
2) Levi Brown looks better when he’s not on the field
You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Levi Brown has long been the butt of jokes for his poor play, but after turning it around in the second half of last season, it’s cruel for the Cardinals to now be missing him. While D.J. Young has taken a lot of abuse for his performance, I’d class what happened to D’Anthony Batiste as more troubling.
Sure Young gave up a two hits and a sack (Skelton walked into another hit, while Young was slow to help his tight end out early on another sack), but he wasn’t beat on every play when he lined up against Kamerion Wimbley. Batiste, who had earlier problems at right tackle with Derrick Morgan, gave up three hurries and two ‘nearly hurries’ at the end of the second half on the only plays he lined up opposite Wimbley.
The bottom line is you should expect plenty of regular season pressure from the left side of the Cardinals’ line.
3) Where’s the pass rush?
Conversely, don’t expect much from the Cardinals’ outside pass rush. Clark Haggans got in the face of Jake Locker early on a stunt that saw him unblocked, and Sam Acho nearly got Michael Roos pushed back into the quarterback, but outside of these ‘almost plays’, the Cardinals managed nothing against David Stewart or Roos. Now, early in the second half Darnell Dockett started getting the better of Leroy Harris but there’s never been a problem with what the 3-4 defensive ends have produced, nor do we anticipate there being one this year. Likewise expecting a lot out of the outside linebackers could leave you disappointed.
Tennessee Titans – Three Things of Note
1) Locked on but struggling with accuracy
This wasn’t the hardest day at the office for Jake Locker. He was given an age in the pocket and could stand up into his throws without worrying about Cardinals defenders. That said, his wobbly accuracy looks a major concern going forward, and let’s just say commentators analyzing his performance won’t be using the words ‘hit him in stride’ all that often this year.
He does some of the smaller things well, for sure. He knows how to protect himself and looks extremely composed in the pocket. But the accuracy just wasn’t there. In one instance we got a snap shot of the good and the bad; pump faking the secondary to help Jared Cook get open, then throwing a wild ball that required an excellent adjustment by Cook to make the diving catch. His receivers can expect to have to make these kind of adjustments on a regular basis, or just plain be missed as was the case on a deep post to Nate Washington that would have resulted in a touchdown.
There are things to like about Locker but that accuracy will hurt his completion percentage and the yards after the catch of his receivers if it doesn’t improve.
2) Dominant defensive line
It would be easy to heap praise on Kamerion Wimbley who had a lot of fun at the expense of the Cards’ left tackles, but he wasn’t the only one to stand out. Derrick Morgan looked more explosive off the edge than any time I saw him last year, while the defensive tackles had their way with the interior of the Arizona line. I’ve not said many nice things about Sen’Derrick Marks, but he was a nuisance in the first quarter, while the sophomore studs that are Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug were getting off blocks like it was going out of fashion. Klug in particular impressed me, looking like a player who can be more than just a situational rusher and his potential leaves me to draw some comparisons to Geno Atkins.
3) Same old running problems
It wasn’t an easy game for Chris Johnson, with the play calling and execution rarely getting him in a place where he could make something happen. Indeed, whenever the linemen did their job, there was a Cardinals’ linebacker or defensive back coming through unblocked to fill any running lanes. It didn’t help that the fullbacks (both Quinn Johnson and Colin Mooney) seemed to have problems moving their men, but in reality the problems were bigger than them. Outside of a run with 57 seconds to go in the first term, everything else seemed almost doomed to fail before it started.