A return to regular season football hopefully means a return to regular season production values. Between missing the starts of plays and having the color commentator on audio equipment that made him sound like a stoned Jesse ‘the body’ Ventura, I’m almost longing for a dose of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Almost.
Still, this game was played as, and ended up, a close encounter between backups as both sides had chances to snatch it late on. In the end, Arizona extended their lead and clung onto an 8-point margin of victory. Since the final preseason game is all about the lower parts of the depth chart, let’s see who made a name for themselves.
Arizona – Three Performances of Note
The big news coming out of Arizona is that top draft pick Johnathan Cooper has been shut down and put on I.R., ending his season before it ever really began. What is interesting is that in this game at least, LG Chilo Rachal was dominant, to the tune of a +5.9 grade. Rachal is a talented player but one who has shown both very good and very bad in his NFL career, which features a lot of starting time. It would be getting ahead of ourselves to suggest Rachal could, and should, be starting, but the Cardinals do now have a hole at RG, and must be looking at options should their projected starters not work out. At RT I feel a little hard done by on Bobby Massie’s behalf. He dug a hole for himself with a disastrous first half of 2012, but from the point the light went on he was legitimately impressive. Not simply ‘no longer awful’ but actually good. He looks to have continued that form into 2013, but has found himself on the bench with the signing of Eric Winston. Maybe the Cardinals should look at Massie as a potential solution to the RG problem too given his run blocking prowess and the notion that they were contemplating the switch anyway when he was performing so poorly in early 2012.
One surprise cut from the Cardinals in many eyes was David Carter. While he graded well here (+2.1), most of that mark came in coverage from two plays — one chasing down a screen and the other forcing a fumble from TE Jake O’Connell. Obviously those are positive plays, but I would describe them as ‘bonus plays’ for a D-lineman. The 9-to-5 work down in the trenches didn’t see him fare nearly as well. Ronald Talley, on the other hand, the player whose performance probably made Carter expendable, was far more prominent at the point of attack. Talley’s +3.7 grade came almost entirely in the run game, where he routinely controlled the point of attack and squeezed intended run lanes, shutting them down and earning a stop for every one of his tackles (5).
Flashbacks to 2012. Horrible Flashbacks.
With starters sitting, and Drew Stanton attempting just two passes (completing neither), we got to see Ryan Lindley for 66 snaps — almost the entire game. It was like watching the passing ineptitude of the 2012 Cardinals all over again. I was instantly feeling sorry for the Arizona receivers as even routine passes often seemed beyond their reach. Lindley’s numbers look healthy enough, 18 of 28 for 214 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. That’s a rating of 111.3, but he actually earned a negative grade for all of that work such was his inaccuracy. What’s worse is that while under pressure he failed to complete a single pass — 0 for 6.
Denver – Three Performances of Note
“You Can’t Teach 6’8”
There’s no real reason to use that heading other than the fact that the commentary for the game actually said it, and I felt it needed to be repeated. The announcers were abnormally obsessed with Brock Osweiler’s height (I think ‘Brock Osweiler, 6’8’’ must be his full name), which is all the more odd since he’s not 6’8” at all (combine measurements had him coming in a hair under 6’7). Either way, we got to see 29 snaps from the lofty one before he made way for Zac Dysert, and what we saw was impressive. He had some real zip to his throws and completed 7 of 10 passes for 108 yards during his stint, leading the Broncos capably down the field. He may not be Peyton Manning, but hey, Manning isn’t 6’8” either (and neither is Osweiler!).
Not a Vintage D
Denver played the entire game with mostly the same defense. Only CB Quentin Jammer saw fewer than 33 snaps on defense, and they had seven players clock more than 55 snaps. That’s a huge workload and judging from the grades, it wore them down. Six players graded in the red, with another right on the borderline. DRE Quanterus Smith (-5.4) and MLB Steven Johnson (-5.8) had the worst days, grading negatively across the board and being the main victims of some impressive Arizona run blocking. Eight players also combined to miss 11 tackles over the course of the game. Maybe Denver were specifically trying to test their players under a heavy workload, but if they were, not many looked like they passed the test.
WR Stands Up
Wide receiver is often a spot where a player can immediately flash in preseason and demand some attention. Gerrell Robinson did that against the Cardinals with a +3.4 grade from his 52 snaps. Playing a starting role in this game, Robinson emulated a starting receiver ably, catching five of his eight targets for 99 yards and a touchdown, and only blotting his receiving copybook with a drop on a very tough out route that struck him in the hands as he stretched out for it. What will impress the coaches too, however, was his performance run blocking. Flashing receiving skills is nice, but coaches love to see a receiver that can block, and Robinson was an important part in several Denver runs.
– The Broncos used just 15 guys on defense. That’s fewer than a regular season game usually features, and half what we’ve seen in some preseason games.
– Jeremiah Johnson forced five missed tackles on 10 carries, and could still average only 2.6 yards per carry.
– There were 11 kickoffs in this game, and 10 of them went for touchbacks in the rarefied air of Mile High.
PFF Game Ball
While it’s tempting to give it to Osweiler just because you can’t teach 6’8”, the outstanding player of the game was Chilo Rachal, who run blocked extremely well all game.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam