Jaron Brown shines; defense, special teams don’t in loss

Cardinals cornerback Jimmy Legree couldn't stop Vikings wide receiver Rodney Smith from making a 2-yard touchdown reception with 18 seconds remaining.

Brad Rempel/Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Jaron Brown made his case as the Cardinals’ fifth wide receiver and Darren Fells may have done likewise as the team’s fourth tight end.

But the roster prospects for kicker Jay Feely, quarterback Ryan Lindley and linebacker Desmond Bishop were less definitive in Arizona’s 30-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Coach Bruce Arians likes to win, even in the preseason, so Saturday’s result had him venting over an area that was a strength in a preseason-opening shutout.

"We had the lead and couldn’t hold onto it. We had a poor night defensively, third down, getting off the field, some miscommunications, down and distance," he said. "They had a third-and-17, we’re jumping under routes. We have to have better communication in those situations."

We’ll dispense with the over-analysis of a preseason game and just offer a few impressions from a largely meaningless game.

— Brown had a pair of catches, including a spectacular catch over Vikings starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes, to lead the team with 85 yards and set himself apart from roster hopefuls Walt Powell and Brittan Golden in the race for what will likely be the fifth and final receiver spot.

"Big play every day," Arians said.

Vikings 30, Cardinals 28

"I mean he went up and got the ball off his head; Drew (Stanton) has thrown that pass every single day in practice and he’s come down with it. I don’t care if it’s Patrick (Peterson), Crow (Antonio Cromartie), who’s on top of him. He’s really developing a confidence factor to become a really solid player." 

— Fells had two good catches as well and seemed to hold up well at the line of scrimmage. Given his lack of experience and game film, Fells may need to sustain this level of play to keep the Cardinals from signing a player once roster cuts begin on Aug. 26.

— Bishop had a couple nice plays near the line of scrimmage, but also missed a tackle and finished with one tackle overall. Can he crack the top four of Kevin Minter, Larry Foote, Kenny Lorenz Alexander and Kenny Demens?

— Feely’s first two kickoffs went about midway into end zone but both were returned outside the 20. Feely’s fourth kickoff came up well short of the end zone. He did not have a field goal attempt and he made all four PATs, but this competition is likely going to be won on depth of kickoffs because Arians believes the Feely and rookie Chandler Catanzaro are about even on field goals. Feely did not help his cause in Minneapolis despite debuting a longer approach to kickoffs

"I’ll go back and I’ll get the numbers and look at them but he has added some distance," Arians said. "I was very disappointed in our coverage units. We had some young players that were looking for jobs that might have lost jobs because of the coverage."

Cardinals replay: FOX Sports Arizona, Sunday, 4:30 p.m. (2013 Highlights show at 4 p.m.)

— Lindley completed 8 of 15 passes for 64 yards and an underwhelming 64.3 passer rating. Lindley needed to excel to have any shot of unseating Logan Thomas as the team’s third QB — if you believe he had any shot at all. He didn’t come close to that performance and will likely play his last game in a Cardinals uniform this week. 

"There’s a couple throws I thought he should have made, but mostly he ran that thing pretty good other than using the hard count on third down instead of the silent count and we jumped offsides," Arians said. 

— Without game-planning it’s difficult to judge this area, but the run game was ordinary for a second straight week, gaining 96 yards on 34 carries. 

— The Vikings picked on cornerback Patrick Peterson early. He was beaten on a third-down play that would have been a huge gain on Minnesota’s first play had quarterback Matt Cassell not overthrown his receiver. Peterson gave up a big completion over the middle on the next series.

— The Cardinals’ entire first-team offense played two series, scoring a TD on a nine-play, 93-yard drive and then going five plays and out on the second drive. All in all, the offense has shown pretty well in the preseason. Carson Palmer completed 4 of 8 passes for 91 yards while backup Drew Stanton went 6-for-8 for 81 yards.

— Special teams were a concern in the first half with poor coverage on returns and penalties. 

— Running back Robert Hughes has likely locked up a roster spot after some effective rushing. He had a 2-yard TD run and ran hard, even though he only had 26 yards on nine carries.

— Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the Cards had some trouble covering tight ends again. Kyle Rudolph had four catches for 89 yards and a touchdown and should have had another TD, which he dropped after beating top pick Deone Bucannon in coverage.

— The Cardinals went for it on fourth down four times but that’s not necessarily an indicator of what’s to come. Arians is aggressive, but it’s the preseason. 

— Vikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater looked good, completing 16 of 20 passes for 177 yards and two TDs, including one that rallied the Vikings to victory. Yes, it was against backups of backups with no game planning and a vanilla defense, but if Cardinal fans deserve to feel good about Logan Thomas’ 11-for-12 performance last week, Vikings fans are extended the same courtesy.

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