There weren't many positives to take away from the Cardinals' 24-6 loss to the Redskins, but the play of defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was encouraging.
The former first-round pick registered his first career sack, added a tackle for loss on a running play and nearly sacked Washington quarterback Alex Smith in the end zone for a safety early in the third quarter. Smith flipped the ball away under-handed and was lucky that a receiver was in the area, or it would have been intentional grounding.
Coach Steve Wilks, who stressed the need for Nkemdiche to "dominate" leading into the game, saw some good things but will have a better idea when he studies the game film.
"He flashed a little bit," Wilks said. "Getting off the football, penetrating, those kinds of things. Just wasn't enough."
Nkemdiche's sack came as he chased Smith out of bounds at the line of scrimmage after Smith was flushed from the pocket. He finished with three tackles and a pair of quarterback hits.
KIRK WITH A BIG RETURN
Rookie Christian Kirk didn't have a big impact on offense, but he nearly returned a punt for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. He was tripped up after a 44-yard return, which gave the Cardinals the ball at the Washington 26.
"Coach (Jeff) Rodgers made a good call, the blocks were set up great, and I was able to hit it," Kirk said. "Obviously you want to finish, but you just have to be patient. You can't press for those plays. It is going to happen at some point."
The Cardinals made it down to the 7-yard-line but eventually turned the ball over on downs. Punter Andy Lee also had an impressive night, averaging 52.6 yards per punt with a net of 46.2.
ANDRE SMITH LEAVES GAME
Right tackle Andre Smith left the game midway through the fourth quarter. Wilks said it was an elbow injury but didn't know the severity. John Wetzel took his place the rest of the way.
Safety Antoine Bethea left the game briefly in the first half but returned and played the rest of the way. He finished with a team-high nine solo tackles.
CINDY MCCAIN AN HONORARY CAPTAIN
Cindy McCain, the wife of late senator John McCain, was the Cardinals' honorary captain for the pregame coin toss. She was greeted warmly by Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill and received an ovation from the crowd when her name was announced.
John McCain was an ardent Cardinals fan and a regular presence at games and practices.
Images from the regular season opener at State Farm Stadium