Preseason Week 2 Preview: Bears at Cardinals
The second week of the preseason continues with games on Saturday, including one featuring the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals. Teams will be looking to see which players improve on their Week 1 performances and which players really grab hold of important roles. The PFF analysis team has all of the important battles and players to watch in this game:
Coverage by: Lorin Cox
Position Battle: Kendall Wright/Victor Cruz, Slot WR
- The Bears brought in a trio of veteran slot receivers this offseason, but with Markus Wheaton sidelined with injuries, the competition has been Wright versus Cruz. The former Tennessee Titans first round pick seemed to be the leader last week against the Denver Broncos, lining up with the first team for most his 15 snaps.
- Cruz came in with the second team and played through the rest of the game with 36 total snaps, but he struggled to make the most of his opportunities. The former New York Giant was targeted five times with three catches and a touchdown, but he also had one drop and only two total yards after the catch. Cruz is coming off a 2016 season with a career-low 48.9 PFF overall grade, while Wright earned a 77.3 overall grade in an injury-shortened season. Both men are looking to extend their careers playing on one-year deals in Chicago.
Players to Watch:
- Eddie Jackson – Jackson was not targeted directly on 14 coverage snaps against the Broncos, but he still made a play on the ball as the deep man for a pass breakup in the game, and he also made a stop in run defense.
- Tom Compton – Compton is expected to start at left guard once again as he did last week against the Denver Broncos before moving back to right tackle with the second team. His 85.6 run block grade last week was the highest of any player in the game, but he had a few issues in pass protection, giving up a hit and a hurry on 19 pass block snaps.
- Nick Kwiatkoski – Kwiatkoski led the Bears in tackles (5) and stops (3) last week, earning the team’s second-highest PFF overall grade of 82.1. He was only targeted once on 15 coverage snaps, allowing one catch with zero yards after the catch.
Coverage by: Mark Chichester
Position Battle: Jaron Brown/J.J. Nelson, WR
- Following Bruce Arians public criticism of the Cardinals receiving corps, the senior players will want to step up and show that they’ve received his message by performing well against the Chicago Bears.
- Jaron Brown played just 191 snaps in 2016 before tearing his ACL in October but has looked good in camp, according to reports. Last year, he was productive in limited action, and averaged 1.67 yards per route run, which ranked 45th of 132 receivers with at least 20 targets. Following a rough week in practice, he’ll have to improve upon the 50.1 grade that he received against the Oakland Raiders.
- J.J. Nelson played 472 snaps for the Cardinals last year, and ended the 2016 campaign ranked 71st of 115 receivers with a 71.0 overall grade. After a season where he led the Cardinals in both yards per route run (1.70) and passer rating when targeted (97.1), he’ll want to show Arians that he’s capable of a larger role.
Players to Watch:
- Cap Capi, ED – In the last two games, Capi has taken full advantage of his 93 preseason snaps and is looking more and more likely to play his way onto the 53-man roster. Capi has tallied 39 pass-rushing snaps over the last two games, and produced eight total pressures – the highest mark among all 3-4 outside linebackers. In his second preseason game against the Raiders, Capi achieved a pass-rush grade of 82.4, the highest of the game.
- Andre Ellington, RB – In the Cardinals’ second preseason game at the Oakland Raiders, Ellington took his chance to prove that he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster. He forced two tackles on seven carries, while catching four of his five catchable targets for 31 yards. With rookie running back Elijhaa Penny nipping at his heels, Ellington will look to build off his performance to cement his position in the Cardinals backfield.
- Haason Reddick, ILB – Reddick performed well in his first preseason game, producing two tackles and two stops on his 22 defensive snaps, and he ended the game with a PFF overall grade of 77.0. However, last week against the Raiders, he had little impact, tallied just one tackle assist on his 14 defensive snaps, and ended the game with a PFF overall grade of 55.8. In his third game, Reddick will look to remind people of the player that racked up the 25 run stops in his final college season, the 13th most among college edge defenders.