Observation Deck: Arizona Cardinals
August, 16, 2014
By Josh Weinfuss | ESPN.com
Evaluating the running game was clearly the priority Saturday night for the Arizona Cardinals in a 30-28 preseason loss against the Minnesota Vikings.
Andre Ellington, who's locked in as the starter, had two carries for 5 yards and a reception for 16 yards. But Saturday wasn't about him.
It was about seeing how Jonathan Dwyer, Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes can fill in behind Ellington as a running back corps with defined roles rather than a defined ranking.
Here are some other thoughts on the Cardinals' second preseason game of the year:
- Kicker Jay Feely knew what coach Bruce Arians wanted -- kickoffs that are deep and high. He kicked off five times and three of them -- including his first two -- were kicked into the end zone. His first two were 4 yards deep and returned for 26 and 31 yards. Feely's third kick was fielded at the goal line and returned 44 yards, while his fourth went to the 3 and was returned 15 yards. His fifth kickoff was his best, going about 8 yards deep, and was returned 25 yards.
- The running game produced the majority of Arizona's points Saturday. Dwyer scored on a 1-yard run, bouncing outside as Hughes opened the edge with a block as fullback. Dwyer finished with 10 yards on five carries. Hughes added a touchdown on a 2-yard score in the third quarter on a dive up the middle.
- A few Cardinals strengthened their hold on a roster spot. It'll be hard for Jaron Brown to lose the fourth receiver spot after catching two passes for 86 yards. While Darren Fells was the fourth tight end heading into the game, his 1-yard jump-ball touchdown was a flash of why the Cardinals took a risk on him last year. He used his size to out-jump Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and his sure hands secured the pass.
- Special teams had a rough day and it wasn't all Feely's fault. Poor coverage marred Feely's kicks, especially on the 44-yard return by Minnesota's Joe Banyard. After Banyard broke free, Feely ended up bringing him down. On one kickoff return, Brittan Golden received the kick a few yards deep in the end zone and began to return it, but at the last second he had second thoughts. It was too late, because he had already stepped out of the end zone, giving the Cards' position at their 5.
- Saturday was Ryan Lindley's chance to make Arians consider him as the third quarterback, but the third-year signal caller didn't make a strong enough case. He was 7-for-13 for 53 yards and looked out of sync in the fourth quarter, missing a gimme touchdown pass to Fells then missing on his next two passes, to Golden and Dan Buckner.
- The Cardinals' final touchdown came on as an odd of a play as there is. Lindley fumbled the snap and in the scrum to recover it, offensive lineman John Estes knocked the ball away. It was picked up by rookie running back Zach Bauman who scored. The play was reviewed and upheld as a backward pass that was recovered as a fumble.