The Arizona Cardinals' starters had an underwhelming collective performance last weekend vs. the Bears.
Saturday night's showing in Atlanta was much more promising.
Here are five big takeaways from the Cardinals' starters during Saturday preseason game at the Falcons.
1. Palmer finishes strong
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said starting quarterback Carson Palmer didn't look as sharp as he would've liked last weekend vs. the Bears. On Saturday, Palmer looked more like the man who was a legitimate MVP contender in 2015.
In just over a quarter of work, the 37-year-old completed 8 of 13 passes for 66 yards and a picture-perfect second-quarter touchdown throw to wide receiver John Brown, who finally returned to the field after nursing a quad injury throughout training camp. It's likely the TD toss will be Palmer's last throw of the preseason.
— NFL (@NFL) August 26, 2017
2. Speaking of Smoke...
John Brown, who was just recently replaced by Jaron Brown as a starter on the depth chart, apparently wants his job back. He wasn't finished after his first touchdown, as he added another TD reception, this time from backup QB Drew Stanton, later in the second quarter.
Observe this beauty in the corner of the end zone from the man they call Smoke.
John Brown AGAIN.
— NFL (@NFL) August 27, 2017
3. O-line creates room to run
Veteran running back Chris Johnson had a mostly forgettable evening after fumbling twice and dropping an easy pass. He did, however, have some decent runs vs. the Falcons, largely thanks to the right side of the Cards' offensive line.
In particular, second-year pro Evan Boehm, who was converted from center to right guard since he was drafted, helped clear a path for back-to-back 10-yard runs for Johnson on Arizona's third possession. The O-line has looked shaky throughout the preseason, and the starters did give up a sack in the second quarter -- but Boehm's performance Saturday was a sight for sore eyes.
4. Stellar pass coverage
Arizona's secondary was perhaps the collective star of the starting cast Saturday. Cornerback Justin Bethel, who's the current projected starter opposite Patrick Peterson, had his second straight strong start in pass coverage. Safety Tyrann Mathieu recorded his second interception in as many games, and Peterson was also outstanding in pass coverage, though a would-be interception of his own slipped out of his hands late in the first quarter.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 26, 2017
5. Linebackers provide big plays
Linebackers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden both recorded double-digit sacks last season for the Cardinals. On Saturday, they were wreaking havoc once again, as they made some big hits that led to Falcons punts, and they teamed up for this forced fumble and recovery off QB Matt Schaub in the second quarter.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) August 27, 2017
Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby also made his presence known, as he tipped the pass that Mathieu intercepted in the first quarter.