While the Green Bay Packers struggled to move the ball offensively once Aaron Rodgers exited Friday night’s 17-0 preseason loss to Arizona, the Cardinals’ quarterback contingent had no such issue.
It didn’t matter if it was Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton or even third-stringer Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals’ offense converted on 14 of their 18 first downs through the air and at the expense of a Packers’ secondary playing without Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward.
The stable of quarterbacks, including one fourth-quarter series from rookie Caleb TerBush, finished with a combined 16-of-27 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 117.8 quarterback rating and the Packers’ first loss via shutout in a full preseason game since August, 22, 1987, in a 33-0 loss to the Washington Redskins in Madison.
The secondary didn’t receive much help from the pass rush – a Robert Francois sack of Stanton in the second quarter was the team’s only mark – but there still was plenty left to clean up.
“Our coverage wasn’t as tight as it needed to be in certain spots,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “They did some good things. We didn’t handle the deep ball a couple times. Really, the big negative for the defense was the adversity defense. After both (offensive) turnovers, it turned into 14 points.”
A casualty of those adversity plays was third-year cornerback Davon House, who gave up three receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown during his 16 defensive snaps starting in place of Williams, who’s out with a knee bruise.
One resulted in the Cardinals’ first score in the first quarter when Carson Palmer hit Andre Roberts for a 38-yard touchdown over House in single coverage, one play after Graham Harrell threw an interception to Patrick Peterson.
Three plays after the Cardinals recovered a Harrell fumble in the second quarter, Charles Hawkins beat House on a double-move to gain separation on a 36-yard pass from Drew Stanton. The 5-foot-8 rookie led Arizona with four catches for 92 yards.
House wasn't alone. Hyde missed Jaron Brown on a quick fade goal-line route on third-and-goal from the Packers' 1 in the second quarter that turned into the Cardinals' second touchdown.
House missed the entire offseason program after undergoing shoulder surgery, but has looked good in practice since returning from an illness at the start of camp with Friday’s performance serving as another learning tool in McCarthy’s mind.
“You give him the benefit of the doubt,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, you’d have liked to have seen him play better and he will play better. Guys coming off of injuries, it’s different out there. They made a couple plays on him and he’s just to got to respond and keep playing. You’ve got to have a short memory as a corner. That’s life in the NFL.”
With Williams and Hayward (hamstring) out, the Packers’ cornerback competition remains tight with fifth-round rookie Micah Hyde joining the returning Sam Shields, House and special-teams stalwart Jarrett Bush.
With one preseason game in the books, it has the team’s three undrafted cornerbacks – Loyce Means, James Nixon and Brandon Smith – all pushing to keep pace.
“I think it was a good test and good evaluation,” said Means of the first preseason game. “I think all nine of us could make a 53-man roster, but obviously they only take six here. Hopefully, things work out for the best and may the best man win.”
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