And we’re off.
The first open practice for Cards Training Camp 2017 was held today at University of Phoenix Stadium this afternoon.
So how does this year’s squad look?
Let’s get into some takeaways:
-The wide receivers looked very sharp.
Despite the fact that it’s practice, and at times no one is covering him, Larry Fitzgerald laid out for some balls and made some impressive catches. Time doesn’t seem to have slowed him down at all, or perhaps Arians’ transitioning him from outside to inside has extended his ability to play. He doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
John Brown seems to have his health issues that plagued him last year behind him, and was getting tons of separation (even on Patrick Peterson). He looked lightning-quick and pulled away from DB’s on multiple occasions. If he’s healthy, the Cardinals have a different offense.
Brown is also in a contract year, just as Michael Floyd was last year. Floyd’s season was pitiful, to say the least. Brown is hoping to avoid that as he could be heavily rewarded with a dominant season this year.
Jaron Brown was in the action a lot as well, and there wasn’t much sign of his ACL tear from last year slowing him down, which was something to watch for. J.J. Nelson also continues to make some great snags After drops hurt him at times last year, Nelson took on an expanded role last year and seems to be ready for more. Brittan Golden looked srong as usual as well.
-The Badger looks back
Tyrann Mathieu seemed “twitchier” than he did last season, and was closing fast and broke up almost half a dozen passes by my count.
Can he stay healthy enough? If he does, the special player from 2015 who made game-changing plays could be a much-needed addition for the Cards’ playoff dreams.
-There’s a lack of a true “story” in camp with buzz
With Tyrann Mathieu, John Brown, Markus Golden and Brandon Williams, all got a lot of hype and became the talk of the camp from the very first day. That hasn’t really been the case this year.
If there is a story worth watching that’s the closest to that level, it’d be Chad Williams, the 3rd round wide receiver out of Grambling State. He’s looked strong and has caught almost everything thrown his way and seems a step ahead for a rookie.
-Haason Reddick looked natural at ILB
Reddick is the other big story among the rookies, but it’s harder to see his true impact and play until the games begin. Karlos Dansby also looked like his old self of 3-4 years ago the last time he was in Arizona.
It’s still amazing he and Fitzgerald both went in the same draft and are STILL in the league playing at a high level. But Reddick will be the one who has to perform ahead of his rookie status if this team is to succeed in 2017.
-Speaking of rookies, Dorian Johnson is currently the 3rd team right guard
Yes, he’s behind 6 year veteran G Kaleb Johnson. Some had speculated that Johnson could have a chance to start over current 2nd-year player Evan Boehm but it appears that he isn’t close to being ready for that role yet. The first-team offensive line seems to have a noticeably lighter Iupati
Some other rookies who seemed to show that there might be a roster spot were WR Krishawn Hogan (big body at 6’2, 225 and seems to be already working some with the special teams units) and TE Ricky Seals-Jones had a few good catches on targets. After Gresham and Niklas, there’s a dearth of depth at the tight end position, and it’s probably one of the few roster spots that is truly open.
It’ll be interesting seeing who takes that 4th spot, or if they keep 5 with Ifeyani Momah as a special teamer.
-Special Teams was an emphasis, especially tackling, kick return coverage and punting.
After last season, this is no surprise, but there was a definite “Back to Basics” feel with camp this year, which I think is a good sign. The Cardinals seem to be settled with veterans at Kicker, long snapper and punter and if the teams’ special teams nightmare is solved because of that, this team might be ready to bounce back if healthy.
-Budda Baker came so close to two interceptions during practice.
Unfortunately, this was also the case in college for him as well. And close still means no cigar, as the axiom goes.
While the throws were bad, he could do a lot for himself and take that next step forward by snagging a few of these balls. And by doing so, might vie for some playing time.
-Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams looked good. It’s tough to get a handle on the pair until the games begin, but it’s better than the alternative. The Cardinals will be relying on both players heavily unless they choose to bring in a veteran. Unlike last year, however, where Bethel’s struggles and Williams’ rookie status led them to bring in three veteran cornerbacks, both seemed up to the task to man the spot across from Patrick Peterson. Only time will tell…
-The first team defensive line was made up of Rucker, Peters….and Josh Mauro.
Robert Nkemdiche is going to have to earn his starting spot, and while it might worry some Cardinals fans, it’s important to note that their second-team DL of Nkemdiche, Gunter and Pierre Olsen might be good enough to be starters on some teams. I’d expect them all to rotate in at times, though the pressure of being a first-round pick is something Nkemdiche will have to live up to.
-Finally, Palmer looked sharp, and Drew Stanton seemed more on point in practice than he did last season.
He missed badly at times throughout last camp, but Matt Barkley wasn’t much better. Having Blaine Gabbert as competition might have helped, but he seems ready to rise to the challenge. As for Gabbert, he threw a nice ball, did well with his reads and seemed sharp. He’s definitely a step ahead of where Matt Barkley was last season and it’s not close.
Whether that translates on Game Day or long-term is another question entirely. But unless he collapses completely, Gabbert NOT making the final 53 roster would be a surprise at this point, so it’s time to get used to it.
As for Palmer, it’ll all come down to protecting him and protecting his arm. As the hopes and dreams for the Cardinals this season, for the most part, will rely on #3 at some point in the end.
That’s about all the big takeaways for Day One.
There’s not a lot of new stories at this point so much as the team staying healthy and living up to the expectations
We’ll have more coverage of camp throughout the week on Revenge of the Birds.
If you have more questions about specific players or other camp happenings, feel free to tweet me at @blakemurphy7.