Leinart Struggles as Cardinals Prevail, 24-0

Although QB Matt Leinart struggled mightily, the Cardinals defense picked up the slack in route to a 24-0 win in Oakland. While coach Ken Whisenhunt was pleased with the improvements in the running game, there are still several areas to address. Brad Wilbricht has the details and breaks down what took place on Saturday night.

The beginning of the Cardinals first defensive series looked similar to that of the previous two weeks as the Oakland Raiders were marching down the field. However, this time the Arizona defense rose to the occasion and brought the drive to a halt following an unsuccessful fourth down conversion by the Raiders.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals offense gave the ball back to the Raiders only two plays later. QB Matt Leinart threw the first of three first half interceptions, severely under throwing a deep pass intended for WR Larry Fitzgerald. Oakland CB Michael Huff was the beneficiary of Leinart's mistake as he came down with the ball over Fitzgerald.

Following the Leinart interception, the Oakland offense dodged a miscue of their own. Although the play was later challenged and overturned, the Cardinals defense flashed its big play potential as LB Gerald Hayes scooped up a Raiders fumble and returned it for a touchdown. Following the reversal, the Cardinals defense came up with another big play as LB Karlos Dansby picked off Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell.

The Cardinals offense continued to look out of sync throughout the first half as Leinart and his receivers failed to get on track. Leinart finished only 4-of-12 for 24 yards. The Cardinals passing game was inefficient, particularly with Leinart at the helm.

Veteran QB Kurt Warner had an uneventful night, finishing 2-of-4 for 40 yards. Although his playing time was sparse, he did manage to hook up with WR Anquan Boldin twice. After Leinart's dismal performance, Warner is now the favorite to start the regular season opener in San Francisco.

The battle for the third wide receiver spot was put on hold Saturday night. Due to the inconsistency of Leinart and the Cardinals passing game, it was difficult to gage the receiving corp. Rookie WR Early Doucet did see his first playing time of the season, catching one pass for 7 yards in limited action.

While veteran RB Edgerrin James put forth another solid performance, running backs Tim Hightower and J.J. Arrington stole the show.

Hightower continues to flash untapped potential as he looked extremely impressive again on Saturday night. Hightower capped off the Cardinals first score of the game with a 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He finished the game rushing for 52 yards on 10 carries. Hightower has now scored in all three of the Cardinals preseason games.

RB J.J. Arrington
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

Arrington may have finally turned the corner and be ready to realize his potential that made him a second round pick in 2005. Last week, Arrington broke out for a 78-yard kickoff return in Kansas City. Against the Raiders, he continued his hot streak with a 67-yard touchdown scamper. Arrington's recent play has all but locked up a spot on the 53-man roster.

Following Saturday's game in Oakland, the Cardinals team identify may be shifting from a pass oriented team to a more balanced attack. The offensive line showed drastic improvement against a tough Raiders defense, allowing the Cardinals running game to rack up 215 yards on the ground.

The Arizona defense was outstanding and pitched its first preseason shutout since 1984. They held an inept Raiders offense to only 165 total yards and limited them to 6-of-16 on third down conversions.

Furthermore, the Cardinals were able to corral Oakland's elusive rookie RB Darren McFadden. The Raiders made numerous attempts to involve McFadden in the offense but was unsuccessful. He finished with 12 carries for 40 yards.

The Cardinals front seven was relentless in pursuit and managed to pressure Oakland's quarterbacks all night long. Arizona finished the game with 4 sacks while keeping the Raiders offense off-balance with numerous additional quarterback hurries. DT Darnell Dockett and veteran DE/OLB Bertrand Berry were both particularly disruptive up-front.

Rookies Calais Campbell and Chris Harrington performed admirably in second half action. Campbell demonstrated his versatility and quickness in the trenches. He also contributed on special teams and could thrive in that role as he battles for time along the defensive line. Harrington showed an excellent burst off the edge, proving his ability to contribute as a pass-rushing specialist.

LB Clark Haggans was all over the field, finishing with one sack and narrowly missing on several other occasions. Although LB Monty Beisel has been absent from most of training camp, he was efficient in his first action of the season. He finished the night with one solo tackle and one sack.

While the Cardinals secondary looked suspect early in the game, their coverage tightened up throughout the night. Rookie CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie surprisingly maintains an extremely physical presence. As expected, SS Adrian Wilson continues to be a force to be reckoned with. He ended the first half with a crushing hit on Oakland WR Johnnie Lee Higgins.

Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at bwill5025@msn.com

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