There are a lot of pros to being able to go up to Flagstaff for Cardinals training camp. One is that I get to leave behind the sweltering heat of Phoenix, which is always a plus. The best part of it is that I was able to attend Cardinals training camp on Friday and Saturday to see how the team looked with the first preseason game looming.
You may have caught some of my tweets about the different players, formations and plays that occurred during my time at camp, but if not, here are some things that I saw during my time up north.
First, let's discuss the guy that the success of next season hinges upon: Kevin Kolb. It was only Kolb's third day of formal practices with the team, so to start judging him now would be a bit premature. From what I saw though, his scouting report is every bit of the truth. When the guy is on, he's great. When he's off, it can get ugly.
During the Red and White practice on Saturday, Kolb threw three interceptions during the 11-on-11 scrimmage. Granted, one of the interceptions was made by a great defensive play from Darnell Dockett. As far as the other two go, Kolb tried to jam passes in to Todd Heap and Larry Fitzgerald, which were picked off by Daryl Washington and A.J. Jefferson respectively.
People often like to speak negatively of Kolb's arm strength, but it looked fine from what I saw. He was able to get a 40-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the corner of the end zone and had plenty of zip on some of his other passes.
Moving on to the defense, you might have heard by now that Adrian Wilson sustained an arm/elbow injury during some of the drills early on in the Red and White practice. He is scheduled to have an MRI, but the prognosis does not sound good. Matt Ware has officially been re-signed, according to Kent Somers, as a bit of an insurance policy.
Since Wilson was unable to participate, Rashad Johnson took his place as the second safety next to Kerry Rhodes. Also in the secondary was rookie Patrick Peterson. He played in many different formations and he played with the first and second teams. He was able to get his hands on a few balls to create some incomplete passes and appears to be everything he was made out to be when drafted.
On special teams, Patrick Peterson was far and away the best punt returner. He did drop one on Saturday, but with the way he was fielding them throughout the weekend, I'm convinced it was a fluke. He stays behind his defenders and uses his terrifying speed when he needs to. The guy is able to cut back on a dime and avoid tacklers. LaRod Stephens-Howling was also great on kickoff returns.
Another rookie that played really well was running back, Ryan Williams. Williams is an explosive runner with great vision. He found the hole a few times and showed why he was worthy of a second round pick. He will be a big contributor for the Cardinals this season.
Beanie Wells looks poised to take over the starting job on a permanent basis. He had a great goal line run towards the end of the Saturday practice and he was able to plow through the defense a few times throughout the day. Mark my words, he will be the starter this season for Arizona and it will be his best season yet.
At one point during the Friday practice, there were apparently some fans booing at the subpar play of the offensive line. I think they need more time to gain some cohesion, but they did look a little rusty out there. Also, the fact that the defensive line was stifling didn't help their case.
It seemed like every play that called for a run up the middle was stopped for a minimal gain. Dan Williams is moving into the "plugger" status that he was drafted to be and Dockett and Calais Campbell looked just as good as ever. Ray Horton did mention that Williams still needs to work on his conditioning, so I hope that does not become a lingering issue for such a talented player.
The blitz will undoubtedly be a huge part of the defense this year. The first team linebackers included the same starters as last year (Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon), while the second team had guys like Stewart Bradley and O'Brien Schofield holding down the fort. Schofield has been expected to step his game up this year as a pass rusher and he looked to be getting pressure on John Skelton often enough, but he was going up against second rate offensive linemen. Let's hope he can take that leap and become a starter this season.
There were plenty of four wide receiver sets, which was something we have seen quite a bit of under Ken Whisenhunt. More often, though, there were sets that consisted of two wide receivers, two tight ends and a running back. Also, expect to see the fullback become a larger part of the offense this season. I think Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Mike Miller are finally going to put the ground and pound game into effect.
From the scrimmages, it is easy to say that the defense got the best of the offense. Most of the running plays were unsuccessful and Kolb was not on his P's and Q's on Friday or Saturday. He will need time, but the pressure is on him now to succeed and turn this franchise around. He will need to correct his tendency to throw into double and even triple coverage. He also tries to fit balls into extremely tight windows, which was mainly unsuccessful.
For now, let's hope the team can keep improving during it's time in camp. Hopefully Adrian Wilson's injury will not be as drastic as we think so that he can come in and lead the defense once again.
If you have any questions on a player that I might not have mentioned, leave it in the comments below and I'll try to answer. I hope you all enjoyed my Tweets and hopefully some of you can get up to Flagstaff to share my experience.