It’s commonly believed the preseason doesn’t mean much beyond a team’s third performance, as starters are typically on the field longer. For the Arizona Cardinals, the hype for a Super Bowl run is starting to dwindle after forgetting to show up for rehearsal in the 24-34 loss to the Houston Texans. Maybe that assessment is a just a bit too harsh. Here’s what we can take from the Cards’ penultimate preseason performance.
Stop comparing Carson Palmer to Jake Delhomme’s unfortunate decline
It’s been talked about since Palmer tanked in the NFC Championship game, mirroring the demise of Delhomme with the Carolina Panthers after a Super Bowl appearance in 2006. Delhomme made his only Pro Bowl appearance that season but dropped the ball with a three-interception performance in the big game. Similarly, Palmer’s rejuvenating season crashed with four turnovers against the Panthers.
Against the Texans, Palmer didn’t disprove the theory with a two-interception performance in just nine attempts. Furthermore, he a knock to his head took him out of the game. A bad performance and head trauma to an aging quarterback don’t bode well. But all this is little more than confirmation bias.
If not for an ineffective defense hindering Palmer’s performance in the title game, these discussions Palmer is falling from grace would be much more muted.
The Cardinals and Palmer struggled last preseason as well, only to be the most electric offense in the league. Further disproving the potential to crash like the 2006 Panthers that went 8-8, they were 4-0 in the preseason. That didn’t make Delhomme any better in the regular season. Palmer could fall, but that true of any other quarterback considered elite at the moment.
Andre Ellington could revive career in all-purpose role
It wasn’t long ago Andre Ellington was considered an up and coming star. In fact, it was just last year he was expected to make waves. That’s just a testament to the production the Cardinals pulled from Chris and David Johnson in the wake of Ellington’s knee injury.
Impressive considering Ellington was good for over a thousand yards from scrimmage in both his first two seasons — health issues prevented those numbers from ballooning even more.
Ellington took a back seat in his return last season with the Johnsons running hog wild, but now he may have carved out a more inclusive role for himself. Not only could it help his career, but David Johnson’s progression as well.
One thing that Johnson has going for himself is just how efficient a pass catcher he is. He hauled in 36 receptions last season, finishing just south of 500 yards. It was a rare sight to see a power-back work like that. Conversely, Ellington is a much more shifty back designed to be the spell back. Now the two can sub for each other without defenses knowing the intent.
Against the Texans, Ellington finished with 25 yards on three carries. That brought his preseason totals up to 72 yards on nine carries, adding another three receptions (six targets) for 20 yards. All combined, that production looks similar to the stat lines he produced as the starter in 2014.
But his role will extend beyond just working in the backfield. He was also named the lead kick and punt returner this week now that Johnson is a more valuable commodity at tailback. Ellington averaged 18.3 yards per kick return Saturday, but his preseason average sits just south of 20 yards.