Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings analysis: 5 things to note in wild 28-30 preseason game

PHOENIX - Five observations from the Arizona Cardinals' wild 30-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in their second preseason game of 2014:

1. Lindley doesn't match Thomas' performance

Following rookie quarterback Logan Thomas' 11-for-12 performance in the Cardinals' 32-0 win last weekend against the Houston Texans, the pressure was on 2013 third-string Cards QB Ryan Lindley in an effort to hold off Thomas for the same position this season. Against the Vikings, Lindley simply didn't step up to the challenge.

Lindley, who played the entire second half on Saturday after Thomas did the same last week, had a chance to win the game for the Cards, but his passes on goal-to-go situations in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter were way off target.

Despite the Cardinals' bizarre late touchdown after a botched snap, Lindley's performance (8 of 15, 62 yards) won't be enough to convince most Cards fans that he should be selected over Arizona's 2014 fourth-round pick for the QB3 job.

 

2. The other J. Brown continues to shine

Much of the training-camp hype in Glendale was about the performance of rookie wide receiver John Brown. But it was another J. Brown that stole the show on Saturday in Minnesota.

Second-year receiver Jaron Brown took advantage of his time with the first-team offense with a pair of long receptions for a combined 86 yards. His performance followed up a first-quarter touchdown catch in last weekend's win over the Texans.

Cardinals commentator Ron Wolfley called Brown, who caught just 11 passes for Arizona last season, the team's most improved player. It's tough to dispute that claim at the moment.

 

3. Running backs unexceptional but efficient

The Cardinals' trio of top rushers - Andre Ellington, Stepfan Tayor and Jonathan Dwyer - didn't improve much on their combined 1.5-yards-per-carry performance against the Texans (they combined for 2.1 ypc vs. Minnesota), but they did a decent job of grinding out some tough yardage.

Dwyer, Arizona's third-string RB, scored from a yard out in the first quarter after its first-stringer, Ellington, nearly scored from the 5-yard line.

The most impressive series from the Cards' RBs came on a 19-play, 80-yard third quarter drive in which Taylor and backups Robert Hughes and Jalen Parmelee combined for over 40 rushing yards and converted on a pair of 4th downs. Hughes capped off the drive with a 2-yard TD dive.

 

4. More trouble with tight ends

Some of the damage was done against their second-team defenders, but it's still hard to ignore the Cardinals' continued struggles against tight ends.

Last season, the Cardinals yielded an NFL-worst 1,227 yards and 17 touchdowns to opposing tight ends. On Saturday, Vikings' TE Kyle Rudolph carved up the Cards for 89 first-half receiving yards and a touchdown on four receptions - and he bailed out the Cards by dropping a sure TD against the first-team defense in the first quarter.

 

5. Feely falling short

As far as the Cardinals' kicking competition goes, it's rookie 1, veteran 0.

Through the Cardinals' fist two preseason games, 13-year NFL kicker Jay Feely looks to be losing the competition to rookie challenger Chandler Catanzaro. Feely didn't get any opportunities to kick field goals on Saturday, but one of his three extra-long preseason extra-point attempts went in off an upright, and most of his kickoffs landed short of the end zone.

Last week against the Texans, Catanzaro was perfect on all three of his field-goal and extra-point attempts, and his kickoffs went farther and were unreturnable. That's why the 23-year-old seems to have a - ahem - leg up on the 38-year-old Feely at the moment.

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