SAN DIEGO - Five observations from the Arizona Cardinals’ 12-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers Thursday night in their final preseason game of 2014:
1. Thomas has a tough night
In the Cardinals’ first preseason game, rookie quarterback Logan Thomas completed 11 of 12 passes for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Since then, Thomas has looked much more like the third-string QB he is, completing just 11 of 27 passes in his last two games.
Against the Chargers, the Cards’ fourth-round draft pick consistently overthrew his receivers on long passes (though he made a near-perfect deep throw to Brittan Golden in the fourth quarter, but the pass went right through Golden’s hands). Thomas also fumbled twice after getting hit in the backfield, and he threw a late interception off a tipped pass to seal the Chargers’ win.
2. Walt Powell
With Golden, Walt Powell and Dan Buckner fighting for the final wide receiver roster spot – if indeed a spot does exist – Powell seemed to make the best argument to earn the job.
In the fourth quarter, Powell made a great 14-yard catch over the middle on third-and-9 to move the chains. On special teams, he averaged 28 yards per kickoff return on five attempts; only four NFL players with at least 20 kickoff returns had a better average last season.
3. Three out of four ain’t bad?
Of the four men who were questionable to play due to injury heading into Thursday, three of them – guard Jonathan Cooper, linebacker Kevin Minter and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu – took the field. Minter had the best evening of the three, making a pair of impressive open-field tackles in the first half to prevent big gains.
The only man who didn’t play was safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is still recovering from an ACL and LCL tear he suffered in December. Earlier this week, head coach Bruce Arians said each player would have to play on Thursday in order to play in the Cardinals’ first regular-season game a week from Monday. With Mathieu, will Arians be true to his word?
4. Catanzaro connects
On Monday, the Cardinals cut 13-year veteran kicker Jay Feely in favor of rookie Chandler Catanzaro. So far, Catanzaro has validated that decision, as he connected on all three of his field-goal attempts, with a long of 42 yards that split the uprights.
Catanzaro nailed his most pressure-packed kick of his very young NFL career when he connected on a 38-yard attempt on the final play of the first half – an attempt set up by cornerback Jimmy Legree’s 68-yard interception return. But will the 23-year-old be able to handle the pressure of a potential game-winning attempt during regular-season play?
5. Grice is nice
While Arizona State was busy laying a pounding on Weber State in their season opener, Chargers rookie running back and ASU alum Marion Grice was busy making a statement of his own against the pro team that used to share a stadium with the Sun Devils.
A rookie sixth-round NFL draft pick who scored 20 touchdowns for last year’s Pac-12 South division champions despite missing the final three games of the season, Grice had a game-high 79 yards on 17 rushes (4.6 yards per carry) against the Cards, and he had another 10-yard gain wiped out by a holding penalty.
The Chargers iced the game with an interception by another rookie Sun Devil, as safety Alden Darby picked off a pass that went off the hands of former Arizona Wildcat Dan Buckner.