Bird Droppings: Volume VI vs. Raiders

Arizona Sports News online

Home sweet home…even if it’s just the pre-season for the Arizona Cardinals.

That was the case Friday in the Cardinals 31-27 win over the Oakland Raiders at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

I guess we need to start with what else…

*If Kevin Kolb would have left the game after the Cards first drive, I’m sure he would have been fine with it all things considered. Following a three-for-three start, he didn’t complete another pass finishing 3-6 for 22 yards. He was sacked three times, including a safety. His quarterback rating was 59. There is equal blame to go around between Kolb holding onto the ball too long and the first-string offensive line providing little to no protection.

*In contrast, John Skelton looked sharp in his cameo going a perfect three-for-three for 23 yards, including a three-yard TD to fullback Anthony Sherman. His rating was an impressive 138.2.

Head coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t tip his hand on who got the upper hand in the quarterback battle.

“We didn’t get a lot of plays with John [Skelton] so it’s hard to say.”

*Running back Ryan Williams stole the show in the first quarter for the Cards. Playing in his first game since a season-ending knee injury 358 days ago, he showed excellent burst and read his blocks well cutting inside when the hole opened up. He finished with 25 yards on five carries and a touchdown.

“I can’t even lie, I was so nervous,” Williams said about his return. “I felt like I was six-years-old playing Pop Warner. I haven’t had this feeling in a long time, so that first carry was just a lot of nervousness.”

*Beanie Wells dressed, but didn’t play Friday. He was still noticeably limping in pre-game warmups.

THE GOOD 

*Rookie sixth-round pick Justin Bethel from tiny Presbyterian continues to shine on special teams. First getting the trifecta blocking a punt, recovering it, and returning it 19 for a score. Later in the third quarter, he came off the edge and blocked an extra point.

“He’s made an impact,” Whisenhunt explained. “He already tipped a field goal earlier this year…it’s always exciting to see our young draft picks make an impact like that.”

*Cardinal linebackers Stewart Bradley and Daryl Washington were everywhere in the first half combining for eight tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. The coaching staff has high hopes for D-Wash and Whisenhunt complemented Bradley earlier this week for his knowledge of Ray Horton’s defense in his first full camp after coming over from the Eagles last off-season.

THE BAD

*The Cardinals offensive line struggled…again, particularly in pass protection. Compounding Kolb’s three sacks, the reserves later gave up a sack which led to a fumble and scoop and score which tied the game. Need to get this fixed, sooner rather than later.

*Way too many penalties. I understand it’s pre-season and a large group of the reserves likely won’t be logging this many plays, much less make the final 53-man roster, but nothing kills your own/keeps an opposing drive alive like a costly penalty.

THE UGLY 

*I know I’m singing the same tune here, but these replace refs do nothing for the pace/flow of the game. The side judge acted as if he’d never actually thrown a penalty flag before Friday.

*The fact there was a shooting in the stadium parking lot during the game. The victim was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Come on people, it’s a sporting event. There’s NO excuse for that.

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.