Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams is congratulated by safety Matthias Farley after Williams recovered a fumble in Friday night's 34-10 loss to the Raiders.
The first game of the preseason Friday night had little to do with the Cardinals' starters.
Both sides of the ball played only one series and were generally effective, and coach Bruce Arians noted afterward, "I thought our good players played well."
Two starters were stretched beyond a single series, though, players in need of experience because both are likely to play large roles for a Super Bowl-contending team. And while cornerback Brandon Williams and tackle
D.J. Humphries didn't play perfect in a 31-10 loss to the Raiders, they gave Arians hope.
Williams, the rookie third-round pick who changed from running back to cornerback just about a year ago, was targeted early and often. The Raiders threw at him on the very first play – a 16-yard gain to Michael Crabtree – and he was later beat for a touchdown despite close coverage.
But Williams also had a couple of pass breakups among the six times Oakland threw his way, recovered a fumble and drew an offensive pass interference penalty.
"They wanted to test me, see what I had, see what all this buzz was about me," Williams said.
In the end, his debut had "ups and downs," Williams said. "It's what I expected since I just started playing the positon. I knew they were going to try and attack me."
The same went for Humphries, who struggled on the first series against all-pro defensive end Khalil Mack. He was helped some on both plays – running back David Johnson got Mack good enough on the second one that quarterback Carson Palmer found wide receiver Michael Floyd for a 30-yard gain – and admitted nerves got the
better of him.
"I knew I was going against one of the best so I was trying to go out there and prove something instead of playing sound in my game like I've been coached," Humphries said. "After that first series I settled down.
"It was not up to my standards, personally. I was too hyped to start the game. I was too excited, too amped up and oversetting."
Palmer agreed Humphries played better after he settled in as well, and the first-team offense did drive down the field on the first possession – although the drive stalled after the Cardinals got a first-and-goal at the Oakland 8, forcing a field goal.
"We need to be a little bit sharper and continue to rep in that area," said Palmer, who was 3-for-5 for 38 yards.
David Johnson was excellent starting at running back (31 yards on three carries, plus his nice block) and the Cards' running game overall went well, averaging almost five yards a carry.
After the starters went out, however, there were offensive issues. Drew Stanton did lead a touchdown drive, although he threw an interception that the Raiders converted into a touchdown. Third-string QB Matt Barkley played the majority of the game and was not helped with a few drops, but he also wasn't as sharp as he needed to be in completing just 8-of-24 passes.
The turnovers – J.J. Nelson also fumbled away a punt return – didn't sit well with Arians.
"Individually there were some good things with the young players, although collectively it was not very good," Arians said.
Arians said both Williams and Humphries did well. That's what matters at this point. Arians said he was "not really concerned" about the result. The starters "won" in Arians' eyes – the first-team defense forced a punt in their brief work – and there were no significant injuries.
So the Cardinals go back to practice, which includes a pair in San Diego this week leading into a game Friday against the Chargers.
"It was a good beginning," Arians said. "A good start."
Images from the Cardinals' first preseason game against the Raiders on Friday night