Arizona Cardinals receiver John Brown didn’t want to return from a quadriceps injury until he felt he was healthy, not when anyone else thought he was healthy. Well, he’s healthy. Brown caught only two passes in Arizona’s 24-14 victory Saturday over the Falcons in the first game at Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but both went for touchdowns on impressive catches.
QB depth chart: When he had time in the pocket, starting quarterback Carson Palmer looked ready for the regular season, particularly on his touchdown pass to Brown early in the second quarter, when he beautifully placed a throw to the right sideline on the goal line that only Brown could catch. Palmer finished with 86 passing yards and a touchdown on 8-of-13 passing. Backup Drew Stanton played about the final 12 minutes of the first half and, like Palmer, threw a well-placed pass to Brown on the left side of the end zone for a touchdown. Stanton finished with 53 yards on 4-of-6 passing. Third-string quarterback Blaine Gabbert started the second half for Arizona and played until less than 5 minutes were left in the game. He was efficient, throwing for 84 yards on 6-of-11 passing. Trevor Knight finished the game.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Cardinals looked ...: Good, eventually. It took Arizona two drives to find its legs after running back Chris Johnson fumbled twice, the second of which he lost. But from late in the first quarter into the second, the offense found its rhythm, scoring on that perfectly thrown 28-yard pass from Palmer to Brown for a touchdown. The first quarter wasn’t as productive as it should’ve been for the Cardinals considering they spent the week honing a game plan. The run game was slowed early and both tackles, Jared Veldheer and D.J. Humphries, were beaten in the first quarter.
One reason to be concerned: There wasn’t just one reason to be concerned Saturday night. There were two. Johnson fumbled twice in the first quarter before finding a groove and finishing with 31 yards on six carries. While his spot on the roster was firm heading into the game, two fumbles -- including losing one in the red zone -- won’t bode well for him if other backs make a run at his spot. The other reason to be concerned was the play of both tackles. Veldheer and Humphries were uneven throughout their time on the field in the first half. Since Saturday night was their final game action until the regular season starts Sept. 10 at Detroit, Arizona's offense has reason to be concerned that neither had a good showing against the Falcons.
That guy could start: Outside linebacker Kareem Martin continued to play well. He had four tackles, including a tackle for loss, all but securing his spot on the Cards’ 53-man roster. He still sits third on the outside-linebacker depth chart behind Chandler Jones and Markus Golden but will find himself as part of the Cardinals’ three-OLB sets.
Rookie watch: In his most extension action against a first-team offense, Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick had an impressive play in coverage early in the game, showing off his versatility and athleticism. However, receiver Chad Williams lost a fumble in the third quarter. Williams had struggled through the final few weeks of camp, so the fumble wasn’t good timing for the young receiver.
Mathieu’s march continues: Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu intercepted a pass in his second consecutive game when he picked off Matt Ryan in the first quarter after linebacker Karlos Dansby deflected the pass. This preseason. Mathieu has continued to look like the player he was two years ago. On Saturday night, he was active off the edge and involved while dropping back in coverage when Arizona went to its nickel packages.
Cap Capi capitalizing: With three outside-linebacker positions already settled, a fourth might have been determined during Saturday’s game. Cap Capi had seven tackles and 1.5 sacks, along with three quarterback hits and a tackle for loss. He shined when it meant the most, and he could make the 53-man roster since Jarvis Jones has been sidelined with a back injury for all of camp.