Campbell and fellow rookie defensive end Kenny Iwebema demonstrated their potential to be a dynamic combination on the defensive line for years to come. Iwebema continues to thrive after being reunited with Ron Aiken, his former college coach at the University of Iowa. Iwebema recorded his first NFL sack, taking down veteran QB Mark Brunell in the second quarter.
Highsmith was all over the field and demonstrated his knack for making plays. He racked up six total tackles and took a big step towards making the active roster. Rookie LB Chris Harrington was also impressive in his debut with the Cardinals. Harrington totaled three tackles in limited action.
Although the Cardinals defense was burned twice on long touchdown receptions by Saints WR Robert Meachem, there were some positives to take away in the secondary. First-round draft pick CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite displayed a physical presence despite lacking adequate upper-body strength. Saints TE Mark Campbell was helped from the field after receiving a crushing hit from Rodgers-Cromartie in the third quarter.
In addition to the defense, the Cardinals offensive performance was also encouraging. QB Matt Leinart was nearly perfect as he completed 7 of 8 passes for 91 yards. He exhibited an excellent pocket presence and showed a good feel for the offense. Leinart will continue to hold off backup QB Kurt Warner if he can sustain the success he experienced Thursday night.
RB Tim Hightower
Hightower's main competition at running back, J.J. Arrington, did not fair as well. Arrington dropped an easy screen pass and continued to show the lack of athleticism and speed that has plagued him throughout his career.
WR Steve Breaston continued to impress with an excellent showing on Thursday. He caught three passes for 50 yards, including a 34-yard gain in the first half. Breaston continues to separate himself from rookie WR Early Doucet for the third wide receiver spot behind Pro Bowlers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
Wide receivers Jamaica Rector and Jerheme Urban also experienced solid outings. Both players caught four passes and ran crisp routes throughout the night. Rector and Urban took advantage of the absence of Boldin and Doucet as both players were on the sidelines with hamstring injuries.
The highly anticipated battle at tight end didn't amount to much as Ben Patrick and Leonard Pope each caught only one pass. However, Pope continued a disturbing trend with a false start penalty in the first half. False start penalties plagued Pope last season, and he'll need to reduce his mental mistakes to hold of the emerging Patrick.
Journeyman QB Brian St. Pierre may have locked up the third spot on the depth chart at quarterback. He exhibited tremendous escape ability and was efficient at managing the game. He ended up completing 12 of 18 passes for 84 yards. Meanwhile, undrafted free agent QB Anthony Morelli struggled, completing only 2 of 6 pass attempts.
Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at email@example.com