Tough decisions await as Cardinals complete preseason

Inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, grabbing the face mask of former Arizona State running back Marion Grice, now awaits the Cardinals' roster cuts.

Lenny Ignelzi/AP

The Cardinals’ preseason ended Thursday in San Diego as preseasons should end — with a dull field-goal fest.

The particulars of the Chargers’ 12-9 win at Qualcomm Stadium don’t matter. Here’s what does.

5 TAKEAWAYS

1. Left guard Jonathan Cooper allowed a sack early in the game (actually, Nate Potter got beaten earlier on the play or the ball might have been gone), but he settled in and played pretty well despite a lingering turf toe injury that is surely impacting his performance. "I got out of it healthy and I showed some plays where I was moving around pretty good," he told the team’s website.

2. Safety Deone Bucannon got caught peeking into the backfield on a completion to tight end John Phillips, but he also tipped away a potential TD and finished with five tackles (three solos).

3. We can hold off on the Logan Thomas coronation. The Cardinals’ third-string QB looked every bit the rookie on Thursday, struggling with his accuracy in completing just 9 of 21 passes for 73 yards and an interception that receiver Dan Buckner should have caught. Thomas is exactly where he should be: playing understudy to two veterans. At this point, nobody, repeat nobody, knows whether he will develop enough to play consistently in the NFL.

Chargers 12, Cardinals 9

4. Inside linebacker Kevin Minter looked OK playing with a pectoral tear that he downplayed this week, but we still wonder whether his ability to wrap up ball carriers will be impacted by the injury and the harness he was wearing Tuesday — the last day the team practiced. 

5. Chandler Catanzaro looked at ease in his cemented role as the team’s placekicker. He made all three field goal attempts to finish the preseason 7 of 7. His second kickoff appeared to be intentionally short and the Cards got a fumble recovery off it. His third kickoff went out of the end zone. The only blemish was the first kickoff, which barely reached the end zone.

5 THINGS TO WATCH

1. NFL teams must trim their rosters from 75 to 53 players on Saturday, but the Cardinals are likely to announce many of those cuts on Friday. Did receiver Walt Powell (14-yard reception, five kick returns for a 28-yard average), linebacker Marcus Benard (two tackles) and others do enough to make the roster? Coach Bruce Arians will address the media at 1 p.m. Friday, but had this to say after the game: "I was pleased with a couple and very disturbed with some others. They made the choices easy."

2. Safety Tyrann Mathieu did not play because Arians didn’t feel he was quite ready after returning to practice just eight days earlier. Arians had said with multiple players coming off injuries that they needed to play in this game in order to play in Week 1. Will that hold true for Mathieu? The Cardinals don’t open the season until Sept. 8. There is time for Mathieu to get up to speed, and he probably wouldn’t start in Week 1 anyway. But Arians’ previously stated goal for Mathieu’s return was after the team’s bye week (no game on Sept. 28), so if there’s any doubt, caution will still rule the day.

"I thought the best thing to do was not play this game," Mathieu told the team’s website. "I think my coaches want to see more as far as the things I am doing and the contact I am getting in practice."

3. The only surprising cut on Tuesday was that of offensive tackle Max Starks. Arians said that Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter had played better of late, but neither played particularly well Thursday. The Cardinals could always bring back Starks at a reduced price if he’s still available, but there is also the possibility that the final lineman could be found after other teams make their cuts. GM Steve Keim has shown a penchant for constantly shuffling the bottom of the roster, both to improve the ranks and keep everyone on their toes.

4. We still think Desmond Bishop could make this team at inside linebacker. Bishop had three tackles (two solos) in limited duty and showed an ability to cover from sideline to sideline that the Cardinals sorely need at that position following the losses of Karlos Dansby (free agency) and Daryl Washington (suspended).

5. Arians said after the game that safety Curtis Taylor probably suffered a broken arm, cornerback Eddie Whitley likely has a broken foot and Nate Potter has a shoulder injury. Whitley wasn’t going to make the roster, but Taylor might have made the practice squad behind Mathieu, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson and Deone Bucannon. Potter was a possibility for the 53-man roster. That will bear watching. 

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter