Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche in action against the Texans.
HOUSTON – Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has looked the part of an NFL player for years, and he finally made it a reality in Sunday's 34-24 loss to the Texans.
The Cardinals' first-round pick made his debut after missing the first two preseason games with a sprained ankle.
"No jitters," Nkemdiche said. "When I was out there at first it was like, 'Oh, it's really my first NFL game,'" Nkemdiche said. "After that I calmed down. Do my assignment and do what you're used to, because you're practicing all week. It was fun."
Nkemdiche didn't make a huge splash but did have a nice run-stop near the goal-line in the third quarter, knifing through the offensive line and bringing down Kenny Hilliard after a one-yard gain.
Coach Bruce Arians said the evaluation of Nkemdiche will come after watching the game tape because "you can't see crap from the sidelines."
Nkemdiche hopes to carve out a role for himself as the regular season inches closer. Arians said earlier this week Nkemdiche could see 20-to-25 snaps per game in his first year.
"Glad to be back in the swing and want to keep progressing going forward," Nkemdiche said.
STARS SIT AGAINST TEXANS
The Cardinals were without several big names during the contest. Safety Tyrann Mathieu (knee), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee), cornerback Patrick Peterson (ankle) and wide receiver John Brown (head) were among the players to miss the action.
Arians said on Friday he expected the three players coming off the physically unable to perform list – Mathieu, cornerback Justin Bethel and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker – to play, but Mathieu said he didn't feel ready.
"Not playing today was probably an unpopular decision, but it was my decision," Mathieu said.
Mathieu said seeing the field on Thursday in the team's final preseason game isn't a big priority, as he could be ready without any work during the exhibition games.
Arians said Peterson suffered a minor injury on the final day of practice on Friday. Arians didn't want to risk making it worse on the field turf playing surface.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins suffered a potentially serious knee injury during the game, although the severity of it wasn't known. Running back Stepfan Taylor also left with a knee injury.
NOT A CATCH?
Running back Andre Ellington was in the crosshairs of the ambiguous catch rule in the second quarter. It looked like he secured a pass from Drew Stanton, took a couple steps and then reached toward the first down marker as he went to the ground.
The ball popped loose as his arm hit the ground, and it was ruled an incomplete pass. Arians challenged the ruling and lost, and he declined comment about the play after the game.
"I thought they were calling a fumble," Ellington said. "I was like, 'Well, I was down, so it couldn't be a fumble. I was a little surprised by the call, but I've just got to do a better job holding onto it."
CHRIS HUBERT HAS A BIG DAY
Wide receiver Chris Hubert has played well in camp but that didn't translate to big numbers in either of the first two preseason games. That changed on Sunday as he hauled in three passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
"It's a great thing to see your hard work pay off, to be able to do it in the game," Hubert said.
Images from the Cardinals' third preseason game in Houston