Fortunately, the team came out of this game reasonably well health wise, although my 2016 Pet Cat, Anthony Brown suffered a hamstring injury which will be evaluated on Friday. The dreaded hammy strikes again!
The first player that we took notice of was Brice Butler. Clearly Butler was no match for Arizona’s 2’s and was able to make plays seemingly at will. First he pulled away from the defender on a 40 yard play down the right side. Laying out for another reception was very impressive by Butler down the left side line. You can see the veteran awareness and polish he has compared to the WR’s behind him on the depth chart.
Nor could we miss Rico Gathers who certainly excited the fan base regarding his long term future. He ran a solid route towards the right corner and grabbed a pass head high for a TD. His second reception really highlighted his athleticism. He ran a drag route coming left to right and went low for the reception, hit the turf, bounced up and used the defenders as though he was a bumper car at the fair. The gain was about 17 yards but the individual effort was very impressive. His offsides is unacceptable, Witten can get away with that, but not Rico. He needs the coaches trust and that penalty had them pulling their hair out. The few plays that I could isolate him, his blocking was acceptable, at times he got his man, other times the defender got inside of him. Best of all he played probably more snaps than any other player last night and that’s priceless in his development over the next four preseason games.
Kellen Moore made some nice throws last night, particularly the four mentioned with Butler & Gathers. Always looked in control, reads his keys and checks down when appropriate. That pass to Butler was significant in my eyes in that, previously I felt that the field got tighter on him due to his lack of velocity. But getting one down field as he did there, only serves to stretch a defenses coverage, limiting their ability to shrink the field on him. Made several nice throws to the backs as well by leading them in their routes. What I didn’t like was a few times he’d take a 3 step drop and put the ball up for the WR to make a play on it. In looking more carefully and being more analytical on the INT, a veteran WR, such as Terrance, probably gets a hand on that ball or simply knocks it down. My suspicion is that these were designed play calls to see which WR’s can high point a ball and come down with them. Those may have been evaluation throws by Linehan & Derek Dooley to see how the WR’s handle the tough receptions? Anyone at this level can catch an out or slant! Otherwise, I thought he did a good job of running the offense, he was in control. When he leads his receiver with a decisive pass he’s at his best. It may not be talked about much but he’s very good moving in the pocket for a player who doesn’t get a lot of reps. Slides well, steps up smoothly.
Alfred Morris looked really well on a few runs, others were muddy runs with little room to run. He looks faster than he did a few years back and did nothing to hurt his chances of making the team. He’s in a dog fight with Rod Smith.
Rod Smith on the other hand, looked really good in his pursuit of the 53 and that 3rd back on the depth chart spot. His ability to play on special teams may well be the deciding factor in that battle. Several really nice runs thru or around traffic and smooth on receptions out of the back field. Its early but my guess is that he’d get the nod over Morris. Better as a receiver and special teams fave of Bisaccia.
Keith Smith, for a converted linebacker looks very smooth out of the back field handling those check downs or swing passes.
Poor Ronnie Hillman was stuck behind the 3’s and couldn’t showcase his proven skills. Several running plays thru the night our RB’s were nailed three yards behind the line.
Collinsworth made a big to do about La’ell at RT. First, good to see him getting the work but he better do good job against their 2’s. Takes time to make the transition to a new position. Looked good, but it wasn’t JPP that he was facing either. That’s what the preseason is for to get that work and comfort level.
Andy Jones did well, but the opportunity he had to get one in the end zone, appeared he mis-timed his jump. Saw him make virtually the same play in camp last week where he high pointed the ball very nicely.
Hoping for more from Noah Brown, but the passes in his direction weren’t the best thrown balls. On the INT when he had a chance to play with Moore, he didn’t show the athleticism or experience to protect his QB and knock that down. He made a swipe at it, but it seemed he may not have tracked the ball as well as he might have. Costly, but as a rookie, you can’t make rookie mistakes and make the 53. Need to show exceptionalism.
Cooper Rush made a few nice throws and good to see him able to locate WR’s and give us a chance to see the offense get some work in when the 2’s & 3’s were out there. Nice 4th down play, stayed composed. Ozuma made a nice run after catch for the TD.
In the beginning of the game we were playing several starters, Byron Jones, Heath, & Brown in the secondary along with LB’er Wilson & Wilber and Gabbert ate the unit up. There wasn’t really anyone who stood out by making those flash plays. The DT’s in this game were ineffective as Arizona was able to gash them repeatedly. Not having the combination of Hitchens & Lee also makes a huge difference in the run defense. Not a great concern, but hoping to find a nice depth player would be nice at the DT position.
Lotulelei was flying around pretty good and in on a fair number of tackles. He’s a veteran who may make the team, but I’d think that Durant has the edge on him. The Damien Wilson situation will factor into this, but he did have a nice sack in this game.
Chido had made a great break on a pass but didn’t finish when the ball hit his hands. Must be a disease that we don’t know about when it comes to CB’s struggling to make the catch. Chido would have had a legit shot at taking that one the distance.
Marquez White for the most part seemed solid in man coverage, but you have to love his size. He did play the part of the matador on one play, that was not good. The other CB’s down the depth chart either didn’t fare well nor make any plays. As a unit on the back end, they weren’t knocking any passes down, which had become common at camp.
Tapper was quick off the ball as we might expect but appeared to lack pass rush moves to take advantage of that speed. Saw him get too wide and pushed out of a few plays rather easily.
Taco didn’t really create pressure and obviously needs more snaps in these games. Had a chance on a play or two of creating some pressure with another tick or two. He’s a work in progress and you can see there’s an awareness that he has to him. Would have liked to see more from him working against their 2’s!
My Pet Cat for 2017, Xavier Woods, barely got into the screen in the 4th quarter. Had a pressure on the QB when he rolled out, otherwise there wasn’t anything in his direction. Hoping that meant that he was solid in his assignments and went untested.
Not that the announcers said anything but Jameel Showers put a lick on an AZ RB! It was an impressive hit by a former QB, with both players bouncing backwards. Here’s a player with all sorts of football savvy and ability and works wherever the team wants him, but unable to grab a spot on the 53.
The defense got a chance to at least work against a former starter in Gabbert. That is helpful in breaking down the tape and running through that with the unit. All a teaching opportunity. Starts right here.
Need to apologize to Lenoir for yelling at him for fielding that punt where he muffed it. He had a birds eye view that the ball hit the defender. He knew the rules and was quickly exonerated and given an “atta boys” by Garrett and all around him!
Overall, it was a good night to get them hitting someone else for a change. Great to get the snaps for guys who really need them for evaluation and teaching purposes. Gathers has to be the most tired player of them all. Defensively, Chido looked the best in the times they went in his direction. Now we have a base line to evaluate some of these players as we move on to the next game. After Gabbert went out the stops were more a product of Arizona’s offensive inability than our defensive performance.
We’re ready for camp next week, as we arrive on Tuesday and will be there thru Thursday. Next game we’ll hope more guys step up and the one’s who had good games, build on their performance!