Originally Published: August 13, 2018 11:17 p.m.
GLENDALE — The first-team offensive line looked powerful in its brief appearance in the Arizona Cardinals preseason opener. The second unit, not so much.
On Monday, Steve Wilks parsed the good from the not-so-good in the wake of Saturday night’s 24-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in his first game as Cardinals head coach.
“I liked the way we ran the football early on with the first group, setting the tone up front as we talked about,” he said. “We need to improve with the second offensive line. We talked about that and giving the quarterback, whomever may be back there, the opportunity to be able to step up and go through his progression.”
There was one serious injury for Arizona. Backup linebacker Jeremy Cash went down with a season-ending torn ACL, not long after he returned a fumble 12 yards for a touchdown. The Cardinals waived/injured Cash on Monday and signed linebacker Gerald Hodges to a one-year contract.
Hodges is a five-year NFL veteran who played with New Orleans last season, San Francisco in 2015 and 2016 and Minnesota from 2013-2015. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the Vikings out of Penn State.
The Cardinals worked out inside air conditioned University of Phoenix Stadium on Monday and have an outdoor practice Tuesday before wrapping up training camp with another indoor session Wednesday.
Arizona plays at New Orleans on Friday night and next week will move workouts to its training facility some 40 miles to the east in Tempe.
Quarterback Sam Bradford played in only the opening series, completing his only pass for 6 yards.
David Johnson, back after missing all but the season opener a year ago with a fractured wrist, looked like his old self in his short time on the field, gaining 14 yards in each of the offense’s first two plays before calling it a night.
The front five — rookie center Mason Cole, guard Mike Iupati and tackle D.J. Humphries on the left side and guard Justin Pugh and Andre Smith on the right — looked particularly strong on those plays.
“It was a great job with the offensive line coming off the ball, getting to the second level,” Wilks said, “and a tremendous job on the outside with Larry (Fitzgerald) coming in and blocking the support player, the safety. So all 11 guys working together. Again, it’s encouraging.”
But the second unit struggled up front, leaving rookie Josh Rosen scrambling to get plays off under duress.
Backup center Daniel Munyer had a particularly tough time, repeatedly rolling the ball to Rosen in shotgun formation.
“I had about five or six bad ones, which was frustrating because I don’t do that,” Munyer said.
“I ended up getting out of it but I did feel bad because it was when Josh was at quarterback. I told him afterward, ‘Man, I’m sorry.’ I didn’t even know I was doing that until it was too late and that definitely killed some momentum in terms of timings with the throws and everything like that.”
Rosen, the 10th overall pick in the draft, completed 6 of 13 passes for 41 yards and was responsible for a delay-of-game penalty. But he had passes dropped and never had much time to throw.
Rosen will get some time with the first team against the Saints, Wilks said.
“We’re going to give him the opportunity to get in there with the ones and get into a rhythm and really get the timing down with those guys,” the coach said.
The Chargers outgained the Cardinals 387 yards to 174, running 77 plays to Arizona’s 49.
The Cardinals were 0-for-11 on third-down conversions compared with Los Angeles’ 6-for-16. The Chargers, though, committed four turnovers to Arizona’s one.
“Third down was not good on either side (offense or defense),” Wilks said. “That’s where we’ve got to improve. That’s going to help time of possession. That’s going to help giving us opportunities to have more yardage and get the ball in the end zone.”