Joe Darrah

What We Learned In Week 1: Cardinals Report Card

Created on Sept. 13, 2013 3:24 PM EST

Week 1 appears to have been an accurate representation of what to expect from the Cardinals this season. Carson Palmer was, for the most part, exceptional in his debut. Larry Fitzgerald, in hauling in eight catches for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns, is embarking on a career renaissance — and the passing offense proved to be dynamic. The running game, while optimistically steady behind the aging, recently injury-prone Rashard Mendenhall, still leaves a lot to be desired.

The defense showed it’s knack for playmaking by recording a pick-six and keeping the game close, but didn’t generate much of a pass-rush and ultimately left it up to the offense to be the difference-maker — which it failed to be in a 27-24 loss at St. Louis. There are bound to be a lot of similar sets of circumstances as the year plays out. That said, trying to predict how many games Arizona wins isn’t an easy task. So I won’t try here. But that won’t keep me from judging.

Assigning Grades

Carson Palmer, B+ — Aside from a third-quarter interception, Palmer was on point. He completed 26-of-40 passes for 327 yards and two touchdowns (both to Fitzgerald). He spread the ball around well, hitting eight different receivers and utilizing his three-headed receiving monster of Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts to near perfection, each had at least 80 yards receiving. But the interception, a pass intended for Fitzgerald, was a big one as it occurred on the first drive after the half of a 10-10 game and led to a Greg Zuerlein field goal. He also fumbled once. As weeks go by Palmer should be expected to hit on more of his passes and should be able to avoid taking four sacks. Overall, a fine debut.

Wide Receivers, A+ — With an eight-catch, 80-yard, two-score performance, Larry Fitzgerald rejuvenated hope in his impact as a star and tied former Cardinal Anquan Boldin for the franchise record of games with at least two touchdowns and eight catches (five). But the most encouraging sign may have been that Andre Roberts finished with a team-high 97 yards. Floyd was also solid, with 82 yards on four catches, including a nifty one-handed snag on a 44-yard bomb.

Rashard Mendenhall, C — While it was encouraging to see Mendy show a nice burst of speed during many of his 16 carries (60 yards), the Cards will need to be able to lean more heavily on him if they’re going to win more than they’ll lose in 2013. He also caught one ball for four yards. Behind him there’s not much hope as Alfonso Smith netted just 26 yards on 10 carries in place of injured backup Ryan Williams.

Offensive Line, C- — Tackle Levi Brown was abused by DE Robert Quinn to the tune of three sacks, but he also recovered a Palmer fumble. Palmer had ample time to spread the ball most of the day, but four sacks were yielded.

Defense, C+ — Allowing 27 points on the road to an impressive Rams team is hardly the worst crime committed on the gridiron, but the unit did spot 14 points in the fourth quarter after only surrendering 10 through a half and allowed a 24-13 lead to disintegrate. An INT and two-yard scoot into the end zone by DT Dan Williams that gave Arizona a lead in the third was indicative of the game-changing prowess the D possesses. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu recorded seven tackles, but there was little pass-rush and sackno s. Jared Cook gouged the defense for 141 yards and two scores.

Next Week’s Assignment

Try to slow down the high-powered Detroit Lions, who showed a fearsome running game to complement their own aerial attack in a 34-24 Week 1 win at home against Minnesota. Reggie Bush combined for nearly 200 yards rushing/receiving in his Lion debut and Joique Bell added two ground scores. Calvin Johnson was contained to just 37 yards on four catches. Can that be done again?

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