The NFL hit a milestone on Sunday night, inching that much closer to the regular season by kicking off the preseason in Canton. The Hall of Fame game took place in Ohio between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals. As expected, the Saints first-team offense was one-and-done after Drew Brees led a methodical opening drive that resulted in an early 7-0 lead.
The Arizona Cardinals lost their first exhibition game to a team their division rival memorably defeated in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Kevin Kolb started the game for Arizona and it was nothing short of disastrous for the Cardinals quarterback. It could have been worse, but Cardinals fans certainly got a firm reminder what a mistake and setback the acquisition of Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia really was.
The Arizona defense was the strength of the team once again. They seem to be drafting well on that side of the ball, with a lot of talented up-and-comers showing glimpses of potential.
Follow me after the jump for 3 players on each team that heard their name called for one reason or another.
Chase Daniel, QB:
Daniel had a very nice game, executing the Saints offense well. He was 15 of 20, for 203 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Sooner or later, someone is going to overpay for Daniel simply because he backed an elite quarterback and his mechanics aren't too shabby.
Travaris Cadet, RB:
The rookie running back out of Appalachian State heard his name called quite a bit. Cadet had 8 receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown. However, Cadet is listed as a running back. As a running back he had 6 attempts of minus-3 yards. The Saints are already heavy at running back, so if Cadet is looking for a spot on the team, perhaps they could use him as a pass catcher.
Drew Brees, QB:
If people were concerned that the Saints offense couldn't operate without Sean Payton, we should think again. Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and Drew Brees had a perfectly balanced, methodical opening drive that ended in a Mark Ingram rushing touchdown. Brees looked loose, on point and in command.
Alfonso Smith, RB:
LaRod Stephens-Howling started for the Cardinals but it was Smith who looked sharpest. He had a long of 22, found the end zone and was hitting the holes well. Arizona always seems more focused on correcting their passing game (which remains an enigma), and have a suspect ground game because of it. In the absence of Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells, Smith looked good.
LaRon Byrd, WR:
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Miami, Byrd came on at the end of the game looking sharp. He is 6'4, with nice leaping ability and aggressive mentality to pass-catching. If Byrd makes the final squad in Arizona, he could provide nice depth for their receiving corps and might become a more familiar name in the NFC West.
Kevin Kolb, QB:
Out of the 7 quarterbacks that took the field on Sunday night, Kolb looked the worst. Kolb went 1 for 4, for 4 yards and an interception. Kolb was injured in the first quarter, coming down awkwardly on his throwing arm. It was one of the worst possible outings Kolb could have possibly had.
This coming season, San Francisco will have three games dedicated to these two teams, in Weeks 8, 12 and 17. The 49ers will face off against their division rival Cardinals twice, as the animosity between them seemingly grows annually. Now that the 49ers have asserted themselves on top of the division, the Cardinals' disdain for the Niners should show itself again this season.
While Arizona did add a top-drafted wide receiver in Michael Floyd, they still can't seem to get their quarterback position situated. It's looking more and more like John Skelton will be the starter, but he cannot realistically be the long-term solution for them in the desert. Arizona's defense will show up but they bring little-to-no threat in terms of offensive consistency on game day.
Meanwhile, the Saints-49ers is another match-up in 2012 that will have plenty of emotion. As I mentioned, the New Orleans offense looked just as bit as dangerous as ever, even without Robert Meachem, Carl Nicks and Sean Payton. It was only preseason, and it was against the Cardinals, but Brees and the Saints should not be underestimated this season.