We Have FootballTuesday, August 07, 2012
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The 2012 NFL preseason kicked off Sunday night when the Cardinals and Saints met in the Hall of Fame Game. First-teamers didn't play much beyond the first quarter on either side, but we at least finally have a small sample from which to make observations. An undrafted rookie roster long shot was the star of the show, and that's a reminder that NFL preseason games don’t quite forecast what will go down in October and November. But it's football, and we'll gladly take it.
My five takeaways from Sunday night's preseason opener:
1. John Skelton took the lead in Arizona's quarterback battle.
The Cardinals have four preseason games left and won't be naming a starter for several weeks, but Skelton surged ahead in the exhibition opener, while "first-teamer" Kevin Kolb stepped back. I thought Mike Lombardi put it well on NFL Network's post-game show: Kolb is a player we constantly say "will get better," but just never does. Kolb threw a brutal interception on his first pass of the Hall of Fame Game. The offense went three-and-out on his second possession. Kolb was injured on his third series, suffering a bruised rib and diaphragm. And he didn’t return to the lineup.
Skelton engineered a 14-play, 89-yard TD drive on his lone full possession. It was telling that Ken Whisenhunt pulled him immediately thereafter. The Cardinals need Skelton to be their starter.
The quarterback in Arizona must be able to do two things well: 1) Maintain composure behind the Cardinals' sieve of an offensive line, and 2) Get the football to Larry Fitzgerald. Skelton will do the former better than Kolb -- without question. And he did the latter better than Kolb last year, too.
2. Mark Ingram is 100 percent again.
I missed on Ingram last year. I blew it. I recommended him as an early-round fantasy pick and he didn't deliver, ranking 37th in weekly running back scoring before succumbing to a season-ending toe injury after ten games. But the value on Ingram is pretty intriguing in 2012 drafts. Whereas his Average Draft Position was late in the fourth round last year, it's early in the eighth frame this year.
Fully cleared after a toe operation and offseason knee scope, Ingram played with the Saints' first-team red-zone offense Sunday night. He looked sharp on a ten-yard cutback run from the Arizona 13-yard line, and punched it into the end zone two plays later, showing power to barrel through Cards OLB O'Brien Schofield's tackle attempt. The fact that New Orleans' medical staff let Ingram play in the exhibition opener after a rehab-filled offseason confirms they are comfortable with his health. And he offers high-scoring potential as the Saints' go-to back in scoring position this year.
3. Michael Floyd has a ways to go.
The first-round pick played with Arizona's second- and third-team offenses in the Hall of Fame Game, working behind Andre Roberts at Z receiver and catching one ball for 15 yards. Floyd saw four targets. It's not as if he was out there dropping balls -- third-string quarterback Richard Bartel obviously lacks touch and accuracy -- but Floyd has ground to make up to catch Roberts, on whom the Cardinals' coaching staff remains high despite a pedestrian first season as a starter.
Floyd has talent, but he's likely a season or two away from offering any realistic chance at WR3 consistency. The Cardinals will need much better quarterback play in order to support more than one viable fantasy pass catcher. Fitzgerald has that on lock down, and seam-stretching tight end Rob Housler, who caught three passes for 51 yards Sunday night, might be "ahead" of Floyd, too.
4. Travaris Cadet may make Chris Ivory expendable in New Orleans.
Background: Travaris Cadet is an undrafted free agent out of Appalachian State, where he starred as a return specialist and tailback after backing up Armanti Edwards at quarterback in 2009. The Saints signed Cadet to a three-year contract that included a $5,000 signing bonus just after April's draft. He ran an unimpressive 4.67 forty at 6-foot, 205 at the Mountaineers' March 19 Pro Day, so clearly New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis liked Cadet's tape. Cadet is not much of a workout guy.
Although he scuffled as a ball carrier, Cadet played faster against Arizona than his forty time suggests. Assuming the Darren Sproles role on New Orleans' second-team offense led by Chase Daniel, Cadet showed excellent field vision and ran hard. Ivory is a famously violent runner, and wears No. 29. Cadet dons 39, and there were times he looked just like Ivory. Cadet finished with a game-high eight receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown. He efficiently secured 8-of-9 targets.
Cadet remains on the outside looking in at a roster spot, but Loomis could keep him as a fourth back if the Saints find a trade partner for Ivory. Ivory got little room to run in the preseason opener, but you can be sure Cards S James Sanders felt his red-zone tackle of Ivory on Monday morning. Ivory runs like he’s hungry.
5. Rob Housler is a player worth monitoring closely this August.
The 69th pick in last year's draft, Housler clocked a 4.55 forty at 6-foot-5, 248 during the 2011 Scouting Combine and has the size-speed combo to be a fantasy asset in his second season. Against the Saints, Housler teased his potential with a couple of seam-busting plays. He caught three of his four targets, the lone incompletion coming on another rocket ball from Bartel, lacking touch. Bartel did find him for gains of 32 and 14, and Housler also stood out as a run blocker.