Top units impress in Cardinals' preseason win over Raiders

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The Cardinals led 17-3 at halftime with both the first and second offensive units scoring. The Cardinals held on for a

The Cardinals' performance in the first half of their preseason game Saturday night against Oakland likely will bring smiles to coach Bruce Arians and his staff.

It’s not that it was flawless. But the good far outweighed the bad, and there were just enough mistakes mixed in to keep everyone humble and hungry when the fourth week of training camp opens on Monday.

The Cardinals led 17-3 at halftime with both the first and second offensive units scoring. They converted on eight of 10 third downs, and the defense limited the Raiders to 121 yards.

Backups took over in the second half and the Cardinals held on for a 20-10 victory in front of 64,183 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“It could have been cleaner, could have been better,” quarterback Carson Palmer said of the first-team offense’s performance. “But that’s why we have these games, and that’s why we’re early on in training camp.”

 

The Cardinals opened the game with a 14-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that featured a variety of personnel groups, formations and plays.

The first unit was efficient. David Johnson carried three times for 16 yards and then was done for the night. His backup, Chris Johnson, didn’t have as much success, losing yardage on two of his three runs.

Like most of the starters, Palmer played just the one series. It went fairly well for him; he completed 4 of 8 for 39 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Brittan Golden on third and goal.

“The first thing that was great was the protection,” Palmer said. “That let me get to my fifth read of the play. I think it was third-and goal from the 10 or 11 (it was the 12-yard line). So it’s a tough situation to be in but Britt did a great job of getting open.”

But Palmer missed on other throws, too. The most noticeable came from midfield when he overthrew Jaron Brown, who was open down the middle. With an accurate throw, Brown would have scored easily.

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Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (right) throws under pressure from Raiders defensive end Denico Autry during the first quarter of Arizona's game against Oakland on Saturday. (Photo: David Kadlubowski/azcentral sports)

Later, Palmer and Brown appeared to have a miscommunication on a quick slant, and the pass was incomplete.

The offensive line impressed during its brief appearance. Palmer was barely touched on his eight passes, but the run blocking was difficult to judge, given the lack of plays.

David Johnson had the longest run of the first drive, bouncing outside for 10 yards.

The Cardinals defense also impressed on the first possession. The Raiders broke a couple of plays early and gained 41 yards to the Cardinals' 34.

The Cardinals stiffened on third down, and defensive end Josh Mauro deflected kicker Sebastian Janikowski’s 51-yard field goal attempt.

There is an asterisk, however. Some of the Raiders’ most dangerous offensive threats didn’t play, including quarterback Derek Carr, receiver Amari Cooper and running back Marshawn Lynch.

The Cardinals were in their nickel defense most of the time and didn’t do anything elaborate.

Coordinator James Bettcher did provide a glimpse of how the team might use their first-round pick, linebacker Haason Reddick.

Reddick lined up inside on most of the plays, but did rush from the edge once. That’s something he did effectively in college at Temple, and it’s a role he could fill when linebacker Deone Bucannon returns from an ankle injury.

The second-team offense, led by quarterback Drew Stanton, took over midway through the first quarter and moved the ball as well as the first unit.

But on second down at the Raiders' 27, running back Kerwynn Williams was stuffed near scrimmage and had the ball stripped from him. The Raiders recovered at their 22.

Most of the Cardinals' starting defense returned for another series. Cornerback Tramon Williams replaced Patrick Peterson and then missed a tackle on third down that gave the Raiders a first down.

There were some positive developments on that possession, however. Tackle Robert Nkemdiche replaced Frostee Rucker and made two nice plays against the run. And the Cardinals stuffed the Raiders on two consecutive short-yardage plays and took over at their 46-yard line.

Stanton played well in his first preseason appearance. After Blaine Gabbert’s impressive performance last week against the Cowboys, there had been speculation that Stanton’s job as Palmer’s backup was in jeopardy.

Arians took some air out of that last week, and Stanton validated his coach’s confidence in him. Stanton completed five of his first six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.

He was nifty moving around the pocket, twice dodging defenders to complete passes. His touchdown pass came on third and goal from the 7. Flushed from the pocket, Stanton drifted to his right, buying time for one of his receivers to find open space.

Tight end Troy Niklas did, moving from the back of the end zone to the goal line. Stanton threaded the pass to Niklas, and the Cardinals led 14-0 with 7:19 left in the half.

Stanton completed 11 of 15 passes in the first half, and his only mistake was overthrowing Chris Hubert for a sure touchdown late in the half.

The Cardinals' special teams, a weakness last year, played well in the first half. Williams returned the opening kick 30 yards, Mauro blocked the field goal and linebacker Scooby Wright forced a fumble on a kickoff in the second quarter.

The Raiders recovered but started the possession at their 13.

One of the only blemishes for the Cardinals defense was allowing the Raiders to move into field-goal position late in the half.

 

 

top-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 2 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton fires a pass to Andre Ellington during preseason game with the Oakland Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium, Saturday, August 12, 2017.  Tom Tingle/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 3 Arizona Cardinals linebacker Kareem Martin tries to get around Oakland Raiders tackle Vadal Alexander during the second quarter of a preseason game with the Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium, Saturday, August 12, 2017.  Tom Tingle/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 4 Arizona Cardinals fans celebrate in the 2nd quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 5 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (5)scrambles out of trouble in the 2nd quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 6 Oakland Raiders safety Shalom Luani (26) nearly picks off a pass in the 2nd quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 7 Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (90) and Josh Bynes (45) stop Oakland Raiders running back DeAndre Washington (33) in the backfield in the 2nd quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.  David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 8 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer barks commands during preseason game with the Oakland Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium, Saturday, August 12, 2017.  Tom Tingle/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 9 Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Cory James (57) hits Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) as he throws during the first quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 10 Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Cory James (57) hits Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) as he throws during the first quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 11 Arizona Cardinals defensive end Josh Mauro (97) and outside linebacker Chandler Jones (55) celebrate a missed field goal during the first quarter of their NFL game against the Oakland Raiders Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 12 The Arizona Cardinals defense celebrate a missed field goal during the first quarter of their NFL game against the Oakland Raiders Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 13 Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Cory James (57) hits Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) as he throws during the first quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 14 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) during the first quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 15 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws under pressure from Oakland Raiders defensive end Denico Autry (96) during the first quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 16 Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Brittan Golden (10) catches a touchdown between Oakland Raiders free safety Reggie Nelson (27) and cornerback David Amerson (29) during the first quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 17 Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Brittan Golden (10) celebrates his touchdown between Oakland Raiders free safety Reggie Nelson (27) and cornerback David Amerson (29) during the first quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 18 Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Brittan Golden (10) celebrates his touchdown between Oakland Raiders free safety Reggie Nelson (27) and cornerback David Amerson (29) during the first quarter of their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 19 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians mull the situation during preseason game with the Oakland Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium, Saturday, August 12, 2017.  Tom Tingle/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 20 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer fires a pass during preseason game with the Oakland Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium, Saturday, August 12, 2017.  Tom Tingle/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 21 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer fires a pass during preseason game with the Oakland Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium, Saturday, August 12, 2017.  Tom Tingle/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 22 Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington runs for tough yardage during the first quarter in a preseason game with the Oakland Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium, Saturday, August 12, 2017.  Tom Tingle/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 23 Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson is grabbed on the facemask by Oakland Raiders linebacker Cory James as cornerback David Amerson, right, pursues, during first quarter action at University of Phoenix Stadium, Saturday, August 12, 2017.  Tom Tingle/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 24 Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio greet prior to their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 25 Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio greet prior to their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 26 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) prior to their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 27 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) prior to their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 28 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) prior to their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.   David Kadlubowski/azcentral sportstop-units-impress-in-cardinals-preseason-win-over-raiders photo 29 Arizona Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley (53) and quarterback Carson Palmer (3) prior to their NFL game Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz.  David Kadlubowski/azcentral sports

 

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