What to watch for at the Red and White practice

Christian Petersen

What can you expect to see and what should be the focus for fans?

It's time for the annual Red and White Arizona Cardinals scrimmage and here's what I am looking for in the game, without tackling and all.

1.How's the timing in the passing game?

This is important obviously as we get into the pre-season we want to see Carson Palmer and the top three wide receivers get their timing down before contact starts and the pass rush from the opposition actually matters.

Palmer and company have struggled to get into a consistent rhythm, which was something I touched on in the training camp preview podcast as a likelihood of happening early, but they'll be two weeks in and need to start getting some of the bigger timing routes down.

This is especially important to accomplish while they still are not facing a live pass rush, because if they are struggling pre pass rush, things won't get any easier when bullets are flying.

What to look for: Are the receivers consistently having to reach for balls, are there balls that look like they are surprising receivers before they are in and out of their routes?

Deep balls, underneath stuff and crossing routes aren't where the questions are, it will be in the intermediate routes.

2. How's Levi look?

While the fur isn't going to be flying, we will get a chance to see Levi in his most vulnerable state, trying to protect the quarterbacks blindside over and over against speed.

From all indications Nate Potter has impressed early and often in camp, he's always been the better technician in pass pro but lacks Levi's physicality.

As good as Levi is in the run game blocking, Arians likes to fling the ball around the yard, and he likes to do it down the field, meaning Levi isn't going to be able to bully people in a quick passing game, but will have to maintain his protection for long periods of time, and that is something we can see.

What to look for: Identify who the possible rushers will be on Levi's side before each play starts, the DE, the OLB or a blitzer, and see if they are the one to cause the pressure on Palmer.

3. Which RB steps up in pass pro?

I've said it before, and it doesn't seem to be wrong, but Stepfan Taylor seems to be the best running back right now in pass protection, but with the lack of actual hitting it's hard to identify how he looks running the ball.

The pleasant surprise has been Alfonso Smith's pass protection, and how he's played extremely well in the passing game, and he continues to show off his speed in the run game.

Can Andre Ellington shake the cobwebs and get better after struggling with his blitz pickups a couple of practices this week?

Will anyone challenge Mendenhall for that number one back spot?

What to look for: Simple, who is stepping up and picking up pass rushers that either beat their man or the free man on a blitz.

In Arians vertical offense the running back has to be an effective blocker.

4. Are the defensive backs in a position to make plays?

One of my concerns moving forward this year is the lack of experience in the secondary, and again without pads it is hard to effectively evaluate the defensive backs as they have to only mirror and make plays on the ball and not on the man they are defending.

What to look for: How often are the DB's making plays on the ball? Are they consistently in a position to make a play, are they getting to plays a step late, but could possibly make a good hit to dislodge the ball?

These are similar questions to what I'll talk about next week before game one of the pre-season, but these are important characteristics to watch.

5. Where's the pressure coming from?

Good or bad, we want to see pressure from the defense consistently.

What to look for: How many men is defensive coordinator Todd Bowles bringing on passing downs, where is the pressure coming from, and how many men is it leaving in coverage.

As great as Ray Horton was, he left the defense open for big plays because he never had a guy who could generate pressure effectively without bringing extra guys.

We saw those holes get picked apart by good teams as the year went along, and we also saw the sack totals drop for the Cardinals.

Bowles will bring pressure, but likely in the 4-5 rusher looks and we want to see if it is effective.

Those are five things to watch in the scrimmage tomorrow, and since my friend and editor Jess Root said there may POTENTIALLY be some goal line work, which means hitting, I'll add one more tidbit to watch if they do this.

Bonus: Who's running with authority?

One of the things I've harped on all training camp is that Andre Ellington and Alfonso Smith are the only two backs who seem to run with authority to the spot in the running game.

What to look for: IF the Cards do some goal line work, watch how each running back hits the hole, and who they are running behind.

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