Cardinals drop game to Chargers 19-3; What we learned

It was an underwhelming performance for the Arizona Cardinals in preseason game number two, as they failed to score a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers.

Although the scores in preseason games don’t matter all that much, there were a lot of things to watch out for in this game from Arizona’s perspective, but with a showing like this it was hard to take away anything positive.

The Cardinals starting offense did not perform well at all as Carson Palmer only lasted three offensive series and led his offense to two three-and-outs and an interception returned for a touchdown.

The first team offense was also without two of its key starters. Wide receiver John Brown, who has been in the concussion protocol since the first week of camp, sat out and Larry Fitzgerald did not suit up due to a minor MCL injury. What you want to see from your starters is improvement, but that did not happen last night.

One big question mark for the Cardinals is the offensive line, specifically the center and right tackle positions and both positions struggled in the first drive. D.J. Humphries (RT) and A.Q. Shipley (C) both were beaten on the same play and let their assignments get past them, but luckily for Humphries and Shipley, Palmer managed to somehow escape the pressure.

Humphries sat out his whole rookie season, basically because he had a bad training camp and didn’t show enough desire. So far in 2016’s training camp, Humphries looks much better, but still needs improvement.

As for Shipley, his 2015 camp was a bit different. Shipley was named the starting center and started the first two games of the regular season. He struggled in those two games and was removed from his role in favor of Lyle Sendlein, whom the Arizona ended up re-signing.

So far this year, it looks as though it is Shipley’s job to lose. This could change, however, as Shipley is undersized for the position at 6-1.

The Cardinals drafted center Evan Boehm from Missouri, but he is not close to being ready to be the starter. There is also lineman Earl Watford, who can play just about any position on the offensive line, but Watford is out with an injury.

Hopefully we’ll get more answers about the offensive line next week.

On the other side of the ball, the cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson is a big question mark. Arizona let Jeraud Powers go in free agency, seemingly lining up Justin Bethel for that spot. Bethel got injured and now the Cardinals are turning to Brandon Williams, a rookie out of Texas A&M. Williams was a running back originally at A&M, but switched to defensive back just one year ago.

Williams has good ball skills but is having problems staying with these NFL receivers. Last week, Williams was burned on separate occasions by Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Williams looked a little better last night, even though he got his ankles broken by Keenan Allen.

It seems as though Williams is improving on his defender skills. Unless Bethel gets back to the practice field soon and impresses, it looks as though Williams will be a starter in Week 1.

The backup quarterbacks also had a subpar outing. Drew Stanton still had problems with overthrowing his receivers. Stanton completed only two of his seven passes and had an interception.

Matt Barkley played the entire second half and played decently. Barkley completed 10 of 15 passes, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. But there were some instances where Barkley had trouble hitting wide open receivers.

One difference between last week’s game and last night’s was that running back Andre Ellington was returning kickoffs and punts. This could be a good move for Arizona, as Ellington still has great speed and is elusive.

Last week, receiver J.J. Nelson was returning punts and subsequently fumbled a kick. This is something head coach Bruce Arians will not tolerate out of his returners. So it looks like Ellington will be returning kicks for the time being.

So while the final score doesn’t matter very much, the performance of the team does. The Cardinals still have a few position battles that need to be settled and the starters need definite improvement. Arizona takes on the Houston Texans next Sunday.

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