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Dimukeje and Matthews Stand Out on Defense

The two most competitive position battles saw a few players take large strides on Friday. Victor Dimukeje earned two sacks and Christian Matthews had a great night in coverage.

The biggest questions heading into the Arizona Cardinals first preseason game were which players would step up at the outside linebacker and cornerback position.

In the 36-23 win over the Cincinnati Bengals the Cardinals received some answers.

Heading into Friday's game, the team was still searching for a player who could take on the hefty job of replacing Chandler Jones. The door is open for who will play opposite Markus Golden at outside linebacker. The first player to step through the door was Victor Dimukeje,

In the victory, Dimukeje was a force of nature against the Bengals offensive line, racking up three tackles (two solo) and a team-high two sacks for a total loss of 16 yards. One of his tackles was for loss and he added two quarterback hits..

The second-year linebacker played the entire first half and made himself known almost immediately. On the fifth play of the Bengals' first drive, Dimukeje sacked quarterback Brandon Allen for a 10-yard loss, ultimately stalling out Cincinnati's drive.

Dimukeje's second sack came on a third-and-2 late in the second quarter. As quarterback Jake Browning dropped back to pass, Dimukeje powered through left tackle Isaiah Prince to sack Browning and force a fumble.

It was an impressive night for the 22-year-old who didn’t see a lot of action last season, playing only 45 defensive snaps.

A performance like Dimukeje's on Friday goes a long way to seeing increased reps and a possible starting nod. 

Other players competing against Dimukeje are Dennis Gardeck, who showed burst Friday but was pushed around by the larger offensive linemen, and Devon Kennardd, who missed the game with an abdominal strain.

Another outside linebacker who deserves to be highlighted is Jesse Lemonier, who recorded the other sack. In the third quarter, Lemonier pushed through the offensive line to pressure Browning on three consecutive plays, earning a sack and two quarterback hits.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he is looking for younger players to step up in the cornerback room and he got his wish on Friday.

Rookie cornerback Christian Matthew had a strong performance, with a tackle on special teams and a pass defensed.

The 25-year-old showed the ability to stick to his receiver and make a play on the ball. On third-and-12, Browning threw a deep pass to Bengals receiver Kendric Pryor. Matthews turned his head around just in time to deflect the pass and end the Bengals drive.

Matthew, a seventh-round pick, is in a tough battle to find a spot on the 53-man roster. The cornerback battle has Byron Murphy Jr., Antonio Hamilton, and Marco Wilson all returning this season along with new additions like Josh Jackson.

Wilson played in Friday's game, but didn’t have the performance Kingsbury most likely was hoping for. Early in the game Wilson was burned on a play and committed pass interference despite the penalty being declined because the pass was caught by wide receiver Trent Taylor for a 36-yard gain .

Jackson stood out among the corners, also recording a pass defensed and making an impact during his coverage. He added three tackles.

The Cardinals will cut their roster to 85 players on Tuesday so a noteworthy performance in the first preseason game could help earn some players another week or two on the roster. There will be a cut to 80 on Aug. 23 and then the Aug. 30 reduction to 53 players.