Without preseason action and with restricted access to Arizona Cardinals training camp practices, the 2020 opener on Sunday was bound to present personnel surprises.
For example, we thought we knew what would come of quarterback Chris Streveler’s presence when he made the 53-man roster as the third quarterback. Prior to the game, his role became crystal clear when Brett Hundley listed as an inactive.
Injuries, unfortunately for Arizona, also shed some light on the depth chart. Kingsbury said that the team will learn more on Tuesday about the severity of safety Jalen Thompson’s (ankle) and center Mason Cole’s (hamstring) respective injuries.
That said, there were a number of surprise contributors in the Cardinals’ 24-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Here’s a little on four of them and what coach Kliff Kingsbury had to say about each on Monday.
We caught a glimpse of the Streveler package
It was only one play, but it sure was a fun one.
Chris Streveler lined up in a dual backfield before quarterback Kyler Murray moved into the slot. With Murray in motion, Streveler took an under-the-center snap and bullied his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame for a first down on 3rd-and-1.
That’s what Streveler can do in short-yardage situations. Kingsbury is pushing the narrative that he is a threat beyond quarterback sneaks. For now, the Cardinals eased him in with simplicity.
“We really like Chris. Did a nice job of picking up our offense, very accurate player, smart player, athletic as you can see,” Kingsbury said. “We wanted to get him involved. We’ll see where it goes, but he plays quarterback. It’s not one of those deals where he’s a ‘slash’ guy. I mean, he’s a real quarterback.
“We feel great about Brett as well. Y’all saw what Brett did last year when he had his opportunities. We just felt for now Strev gives us a dynamic there with his special teams abilities as well that we’re going to have him up right now.”
Streveler recorded one snap on special teams, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Reddick finds his hybrid role
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph wasn’t lying in training camp when he suggested that 2017 first-round pick Haason Reddick had a role on the defense behind starting outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Devon Kennard.
Reddick batted a pass on 3rd-and-3 at San Francisco’s 43-yard line to kill a second-half drive, tackled tight end Jordan Reed in coverage for a 2-yard 49ers gain and stopped quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on a scramble.
While Reddick reacted slowly to a wheel route by 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk that gave San Francisco 41 yards as part of their last touchdown drive of the day, the outside backer ended up playing 30 snaps (48% of the defensive plays).
Reddick was used down the stretch as a second outside linebacker but one who often dropped into coverage.
“We felt really good coming out of camp that he had found a good niche and a good home there at that position. He definitely showed up,” Kingsbury said. “Just excited for him. The transition to inside backer wasn’t for him, and he had to bounce around there for a couple years and I know he was really frustrated about it but to see him loose and free and find a good role, it’s exciting to see.”
Banjo solid at safety
Thompson lasted two plays before an ankle injury thrust veteran and special teamer Chris Banjo onto the field at safety.
While it’s a wonder if Thompson would have been able to stop running back Raheem Mostert from hitting 22.7 mph on the radar gun and scoring on a 76-yard burst in the first quarter, Banjo mostly showed well in his place.
“Banjo’s a guy who had a phenomenal camp,” Kingsbury said Monday. “We felt like when we wrapped up camp that he was a guy who could step in for either of the safeties and continue to help us. He did that yesterday. Just couldn’t be more impressed by him as a teammate, the way he engages with his teammates on the sidelines … he’s the type of guy you want on your roster.”‘
Gaillard gets his first run
The Cardinals have been high on Gaillard, their 2019 sixth-round pick. It has something to do with Arizona allowing veteran center A.Q. Shipley to walk in free agency this offseason.
On Sunday, Gaillard stepped in when starting center Mason Cole went down with a hamstring injury.
“That’s not easy to step in, second-year player … making the all the calls, doing all the things that we ask him to do,” Kingsbury said. “I thought he handled himself well against that front. Allowed us to have a couple big drives there late to win the game, and I was impressed. He’s always been super competitive, he’s a tough-nosed young man. He went out there and competed well.”