A glorified practice in Canton Ohio for the NFL Hall-of-Fame game, allowed us to see just a glimpse of which players could possibly have an impact this season. After watching every play on tape, I found four players that really stood out and looked the part of a contributing piece to the puzzle.
First: QB Blaine Gabbert
Keep in mind this is against second-string players, but his performance sure outweighed the alternative. Gabbert did what a starting quarterback should have done, and that’s too dominant second-tier players. Finishing 11 of 14 for 185 yards, no picks, no touchdown passes and had a two-point conversion. A performance that would later suggest that the journeymen could very well challenge Drew Stanton for the number two spot.
Coach Arians confirmed after the game.
“ He could but lots of work to do, Drew knows the offense so well, but if you playing good, your playing good, don’t care who you are”.
There were only two mistakes Gabbert made in this game and both cost his team yardage. His entire career he ran for his life on bad teams and has a tendency to run out of the pocket when not necessary. A play on the teams’ second drive, he takes off to run and is tripped up for no gain. But had he stayed in the pocket and took the check-down to running back Andre Ellington that would have easily gained at least five yards. The other play cost his team a field goal opportunity before the half, as he ran to the right again and took a crucial sack that took his team out of field goal range. Those things can certainly be fixed, as the quarterback whisperer’s work has already paid these great dividends.
Second Player: Robert Nkemdiche
I thought that this was the most important player to watch all-night, as I watched every play on tape. Robert was like his coach said “very disruptive” and in his first 10 plays, he was exactly that. Again, he was supposed to show against second-string talent and he did look superior to that unit. I watched him get double teamed on more than 11 plays throughout the game, and he split them and got penetration on more than half of those plays. On the second defensive play, Robert spits a double team to make a one-arm tackle in the backfield.
The fifth play of the defense, Nkemdiche blows up a run play to aid in a tackle of Cowboys Darren McFadden with a massive bull rush in a rare one-on-one battle right up the middle. What really caught my eye was his swag and being so talkative against the opponent in an intimidating fashion. If this is the Robert Nkemdiche we will continue to see, this will be a successful defense for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Final two players:
The last two players that I will mention that had a good showing on Thursday night, was safety Budda Baker and specialist TJ Logan. Baker was where he needed to be on every play, no miscommunication or busted plays on his part. He flew around the field and did himself very well having started camp late.
TJ Logan was off to a great start on special teams and at running back, as he showed electric speed and cutting ability in the punt and kick return game. Before leaving the field with a wrist injury before the half, and would not return to the game. The team has reported that he will need surgery and will be out for the next 12 weeks. This is an area that the Cardinals really needed to improve in, and Logan looked the part of a game-breaking talent that could win the team at least two games in the return department.
I really hope he can get back and be effective, as his short-lived preseason game showed him to be a vital piece going forward. Perhaps his return may come at a time where the team gets a spark going into the stretch of a long season, and hopefully into the playoffs.
The Cardinals ended up losing the game 20-18 to the Cowboys but won the first half where more skilled players were on the field. Gabbert may not get a chance to ever run with the first team offense, but planting the seed to changing the minds of the coaches to get that number two spot has become real. It will be tough, especially when his head coach is very much attached to the hip with his current number two guy Drew Stanton.