LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Jonathan Gannon refused all week to say who would start at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals in their season opener at the Washington Commanders, even as evidence mounted it would be Joshua Dobbs.
The journeyman acquired in a trade from Cleveland last month did indeed get the nod, and Dobbs’ debut was not pretty. He lost two fumbles late, mistakes that added up to a 20-16 loss for a rebuilding team with very little margin for error.
"That’s on me," Dobbs said, citing the ball being wet from rain during the second half. "As a quarterback, you have to secure every single exchange. That’s on me. That’s something we worked on specifically with a wet ball in practice."
Not much about the offense worked for the Cardinals, whose only touchdown came on defense when Dennis Gardeck forced a fumble by Washington QB Sam Howell and Cameron Thomas recovered and fell into the end zone. Arizona got the rest of its points on field goals by 39-year-old Matt Prater.
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 10: Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (6) in action against Washington Commanders safety Percy Butler (35) during the NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Washington Commanders on September 10, 2023 at Fed (Getty Images)
Dobbs, 28, was playing just his ninth NFL game despite bouncing around the league as a backup since being drafted in 2017. He finished 21 of 30 for 133 yards and was sacked three times.
"I thought he did a good job," said Gannon, who coached his first game for Arizona after serving as defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. "He operated. We had a couple good drives there. Took care of the ball. The last two were unfortunate, but that’s going to happen. I thought our operation was pretty clean. He made some throws, operated well."
An overthrow of veteran tight end Zach Ertz in the end zone cost the Cardinals points when they settled for a 28-yard-field goal from Prater. Ertz, who was playing nine months since surgery to repair a torn ACL, said he and Dobbs need to get on the same page.
"We’re learning together," Ertz said. "We’ve only been together with each other now for about two weeks playing. We see the game similarly, so we’re just going to keep working and keep stacking. This should be the worst performance we have as an offense."
The Cardinals had just 211 yards. Evidence of their young roster, they also had nine penalties that added up to 122 yards.
But Dobbs was brought in to be a steady hand at the most important position in football, so he was quick to take responsibility for the defeat and expects to remain the starter and improve from this point forward.
"It’s disappointing not to win, and that starts with me," Dobbs said. "On offense, we have to finish drives, we have to score touchdowns and that starts with me."