The Arizona Cardinals would like a mulligan, please.
After a weekend replete with injuries and a poor showing against the San Diego Chargers, the Cardinals would undoubtedly take a do-over for the third week of the NFL preseason. The team will have to lick its wounds and figure out what went wrong on both sides of the ball in the 24-7 loss but, to makes matters worse, they must also hope for the best regarding injuries to key players like Jonathan Cooper and Rashard Mendenhall.
Most teams in the NFL use Week 3 of the preseason to cement the starting units on both sides of the ball. The fourth and final game is primarily to figure out special teams contributors and the last players to make the roster before final cuts are made on August 31. This game was about seeing how well the offense and defense will perform together and then making adjustments heading into Week 1 against the St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers at this point.
The preseason started well enough for the Cardinals with a shutout victory over the Packers and a win over the Cowboys in Week 2. While preseason victories are meaningless in the standings, it was a nice beginning to Bruce Arians' tenure as head coach considering the Cardinals had a top 10 offense and defense through the first two weeks of the preseason.
Then came Week 3.
The worst news is the loss of first round pick Jonathan Cooper to a broken leg -- a move that could prohibit him from playing at all in 2013. Arians hopes Cooper can return in 2013, but the likelihood of that happening is slim. In addition to the loss of the team's starting left guard in Cooper, several other players are scheduled for MRIs including running back Rashard Mendenhall, tight end Rob Housler, DE/LB Matt Shaughnessy, wide receiver Andre Roberts and defensive tackle Dan Williams. That's a laundry list of injuries that a team like the Cardinals cannot afford to withstand.
Mendenhall was brought in to serve as the workhorse back, and the team is hoping his knee injury isn't anything serious. Roberts and Housler are both important components on offense. Williams should be the team's starting nose tackle, if healthy, and Shaughnessy was a nice defensive addition who started 16 games last year for the Oakland Raiders.
Aside from the injuries, the Cardinals also looked flat against the Chargers. There were numerous penalties, mental mistakes on all sides and special teams play was especially bad. The special teams unit allowed Dan Carpenter's 26-yard field goal to be blocked late in the first half and also allowed Keenan Allen's 44-yard punt return. Those mistakes will alter a game's outcome in the regular season, especially for a team competing in the difficult NFC West.
The Cardinals still have great reason for hope, however. The running game looked solid before Mendenhall went down, and with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, the offense could really shine with Arians' expertise. In addition, Mathieu and Patrick Peterson anchor a defense with impact playmakers and the Cardinals should feel good about their chance for success.
That said, the momentum took a major hit this weekend with the litany of injuries and poor play. Arians has a lot to work on between now and then while simultaneously hoping for good news from the training staff.