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Highlights from Day 1 of Cards Camp 2018

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How did the 2018 Arizona Cardinals look? And who’s winning the QB competition between Bradford and Rosen thus far?

Each year there’s always a period of time in which, because it’s practice, there tends to be a lot of overreaction.

Players who look like studs hit the regular season and suddenly don’t seem to have the dominance they showed in camp. Meanwhile, players who had seemed to fly under the radar end up getting thrust into position and become contributors, and sometimes, stars.

NFL Training camps are a time for optimism and hope, while also a time where if a player drops a ball, a QB throws an interception or other errors that fans and others alike can overreact to.

Below I’ve compiled some notes and observations from the first day of camp, starting with the quarterback battle:

Sam Bradford was full go and showed why he’s currently the starter

He’ll have days off where Josh Rosen will get a lot of the first team reps but Bradford hit Larry Fitzgerald across the middle in stride over Budda Baker for a big gain, showcasing the timing when he’s kept upright.

He had a sleeve on his left leg but was full go for the day and the team looked unconcerned about him during the practice. I think the question won’t be Bradford making it through the preseason. But rather...when the games begin and he takes hits, will he remain able to move around as he currently can?

And now, the portion myself and many other fans have wondered about...

Josh Rosen is already QB2...but not any more yet

With how Rosen lived up to his reputation today, it’s hard to see the team putting Mike Glennon ahead of him unless Sam Bradford should go down, like, tomorrow.

He seemed in command of the offense, seemed comfortable executing and had some nice bullets into traffic, including making a great back-shoulder throw to WR Trent Sherfield that led the receiver away from the DB where only he could catch it, and likely into a safer spot from a big hit.

I don’t see a reason to have Glennon ahead of him, because Rosen can still develop and learn from mistakes while Glennon, as many veteran quarterbacks become, is who he is at this point for the most part.

Rosen showcased why he was drafted so high today. He’s got a good knack for scanning the field and knowing where his guys will be and is able to deliver the ball with timing and placement when he’s been given the time he needs. One such pass to David Johnson in the last part of the session showcased this where a coverage was blown and Rosen calmly noticed it and dropped the ball off right to Johnson for a big gain.

It might seem elementary, but when looking at past young quarterbacks such as Logan Thomas and Matt Barkley, or even Blaine Gabbert, such recognition wasn’t always there. His arm also doesn’t pop like a cannon but there’s NFL-level zip on it where there’s no questions about strength.

But on the other side...

Rosen beating Bradford might depend more on Bradford

Rosen has two concerns coming into the NFL from teams, as they were injuries and decisions made under pressure.

There were a few times that Rosen either didn’t like what he saw and double-clutched and two plays stuck out to me.

One was a throw where he had bodies around him and he threw the ball a bit late and behind his receiver, and it ended up being picked off by safety Rudy Ford. The second one was a play in which he put the ball into the right spot where the defensive back couldn’t catch it, but the coverage was tight enough that the TE was only able to get one hand on it. This was the result of rushing the throw.

It’s only practice, so part of this is probably from Rosen wanting to make the play and to learn, and sure enough, QB coach Byron Leftwich went over and coached him up after the interception. But while the first one is a rookie mistake, the latter was indeed one of the knocks on Rosen. Chandler Jones knocked down a pass from Rosen to Johnson late in practice as well, which, mind you, is that it’s also Chandler Freaking Jones.

If he needs time to pick you apart and his line is porous and receivers don’t separate, he’s not gonna have much success.

Of course, this is true of maybe 95% of NFL quarterbacks, but Rosen needs to still be able to create and make plays on his own because the NFL at some point will always break down the system.

There’s no definitive or final word on whether or not Rosen will or won’t be a success. But as those two plays showed, he’s still an NFL rookie and those expecting him to suit up and seize the job in practice are mistaken.

Until he proves that, whether in games, practice or health, it’s Bradford’s job to lose.

Now, onto the other points leftover to cover...

David Johnson looks to have not lost a step

He’s big, he’s bad and he’s back. David Johnson looked dynamic and ready to play and it’s definitely a big deal.

Will his deal get done in camp? We don’t know, but he practiced like it didn’t matter to him, and Mike McCoy did throw it to him out of the backfield quite a bit today. That’s his strong suit and it was good to see.

The attention to special teams and stretching under Wilks was different from years past.

With Bruce Arians’ noticeably requiring players to stretch on their own time before practice, seeing Wilks have his players stretch out before and after practice was unusual for those who’ve seen Cards Camp the last five years.

There felt like a lot more special teams drills run as well, nearly every other offensive/defensive drill had special teams in between.

Under Arians, the special teams would often take up the bulk of the beginning of practice and then switch to focusing on offensive/defensive drills. Under Wilks it seems as though they will be making a big focus. This should be music to Cardinals’ fans ears.

The defensive drills were a lot of back-to-basics with a focus on knowing responsibilities

One key drill I saw from my time in the end zone focused on the pre-snap motion of the receiver and the calls where there was a ton of yelling and communication. The focus was on the blitz or rush call, where they sometimes brought 5, 6 players.

Considering that last year the team under James Bettcher had mixups and the standard Arians often set was on players stepping up to take on the learning, it’s a different approach to seem to focus on having the defense know their assignments based on designated shifts versus stepping up to have to know them with less teaching.

The shift from offense to defense and special teams is obvious, both in the shift from an offensive guy in Arians to a defensive guy in Wilks.

The tight end pass-catching position is back in Arizona

Under BA, tight ends were blockers, not receivers. Whereas tight ends Ricky Seals-Jones, Gabe Holmes and others lined up both inside and out in 11 personnel.

The Cardinals offense this year seems to be a ground & pound offense with a lot of quick passes to the receivers and backs and spreading teams out with tight ends on later downs. I didn’t see even a single deep pass of 30+ yards attempted by the team during the offensive/defensive scrimmage. A surprise, to be sure, but an expected one considering how Bruce Arians’ bash & bomb offense was not the norm in the NFL.

The Cardinals defense will be awfully fun this year if the DL is good

Arizona’s got a strong secondary with the addition of Tre Boston to Patrick Peterson, Budda Baker, Antoine Bethea and Jamar Taylor. Bene Benewikere had a pick of Sam Bradford today and Brandon Williams got CB1 snaps as well.

The 2nd corner position is still wide open but I have a feeling it’ll end up being Taylor. He showed a lot of hustle today.

As for the front seven, there will be blitzes a plenty while Chandler Jones will be a wrecking ball, but what the team really needs is for Nkemdiche and Peters to get interior pressure, as Reddick and Bucannon were off the ball quite a bit in covering on passing downs. This team might have that fixed if Markus Golden is back, but a strong push up front and it might not be as necessary for success.

The offensive line looked healthy and ready to contribute

Mike Iupati fell over once today (it looked like it was possibly against Corey Peters) but got up right away and the starting offensive line of Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Pugh and Smith seems set for the regular season. I didn’t see lapses or issues like I did with the interior of the Cardinals line and the backups occasionally and it’s possible that Ray Brown might be right all along and the OL will be a strength. From the runs that I saw, new right guard Justin Pugh seemed to be very noticeable at opening up a few of the holes on the designed plays for the running backs.

Chase Edmonds will be fun, like a Kerwynn Williams on steroids

Chase Edmonds is so shifty and for a small back, has fantastic balance. He seems to be an inside-out runner and unlike David Johnson being a big, shifty back who can move in space, tight quarters seem to favor Edmonds. I have a feeling that he’s gonna get a lot more carries than some might think, giving Arizona a two-headed monster at RB. His shiftiness is part of the reason Arizona really liked him.

He and Johnson complement each other, although I think Johnson’s still a much better pass-catcher at this point.

The WR2 position right now seems to belong to a battle between Brice Butler & Christian Kirk

Butler had some nice catches, and Kirk had a great catch in traffic over the middle. Butler seems to have the inside track for WR2 and got the most time with the starters, while Kirk played some snaps as the third or fourth wide receiver. Both seemed to make some tough grabs and while Larry Fitzgerald is the guy, you could probably say that Butler is after him just because Kirk isn’t there yet. He might not get there, but he was featured more than J.J. Nelson was.

I don’t think Nelson is on the bubble but I do think that he’s gonna have to prove that he belongs on this team and not just in a Bruce Arians offense.

Robert Nkemdiche & Hasaan Reddick looked like starters...as much as you can in a padless practice

There wasn’t jumping offsides, errors or problems you saw with Nkemdiche in years past. He seems like he’s developed and settled in, but without players having on pads going full-go, there’s no knowing until the games begin if he’s ready to finally live up to the billing he was given as potentially the 2nd coming of Darnell Dockett.

Reddick had some nice coverage on tight ends and forced a throw from Bradford to Ricky Seals-Jones to be a bit too high and away to avoid a pick, and I think he’s gonna be a solid player this year. What’s interesting is how Josh Bynes, on 3rd down, came off of the field for another safety while the athletic combo of Bucannon and Reddick stayed on and looked pretty good doing it.

That’s a former safety and a former safety-to-defensive lineman-to inside linebacker there.

A few last quick notes on some players:

· Tre Boston is already with the starting unit, and seems to already know and get the scheme just in his first day with the team...not a surprise given 3 years with Wilks

· Carlton Aguodosi is big. At 6’6 I can see why Arizona held onto him from last year. He’s got a lot of junk surrounding him there at the WR position.

· The punting returner had a name that most hadn’t heard of taking punts alongside Patrick Peterson, Christian Kirk and T.J. Logan: Rashad Ross, WR. Look for Ross to compete with the rest as he looked good out there when fielding punts

· Vontarrius Dora, not Benson Mayowa, was the starting 2nd team defensive end. I wonder if Mayowa is just rotating or if he’s been passed up already while both wait for Markus Golden to return to the field.

· Speaking of defensive lineman...rookie UDFA Alec Peters made a nice athletic play on the ball on a turnover late in practice. I know some who think he has a shot at making the team

· The poor QB4 in Charles Kanoff didn’t get much action, and I dunno if he’s going to end up on the practice squad or if Keim (when back) will keep churning the bottom of the roster but there’s not enough work left for him even if Bradford has a day off.

· The tight ends behind Seals-Jones and Gresham made their share of catches and looked good doing so. I think you need a star to stand out still, but it’s nice to see some depth in the pass-catching game.

· Greg Little had a few tough catches out there, as did Sherfield

· Scooby Wright didn’t play until pretty late in the Day with the 3rd team...I wonder if he’s going to be able to make the roster if his special teams’ play doesn’t stand out.

· I hardly noticed Evan Boehm. It might not be a shock if he doesn’t make the final 53...and that would be disappointing given how he would become another mid-round OL miss by Steve Keim

· Chad Williams had a dynamic tough catch in traffic, and it’s possible that he will see some time this year, even ahead of Kirk, due to the fact he can line up outside.

· Finally, I got to meet up with some great Cards fans today as well as one of our new writers for this year in Kyle Posey, aka @KP_Show on Twitter. Do give him a follow as he’s a fantastic and fair football mind and will be helping cover the team this year for Revenge of the Birds.

That’s all for now, I’ll check back in with more live coverage from the Red-White practice and will be updating on the latest Cards Camp news throughout the week.

You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter.