- Steve Wilks got the tempo rolling on the first day of pads with a series of Oklahoma (one on one) drills.
- What impressed me right off the bat was the pass blocking technique of the offensive linemen. Ray Brown must be stressing the initial hand punch to square up the rusher because this was plainly evident in D.J. Humphries’ sound fan block of Chandler Jones and in Justin Pugh’s pop on Robert Nkemdiche, which prevented the DT from making a swift swim move.
- One of the blocks that stood out was Daniel Munyer’s fan block on Olsen Pierre. This was textbook. Knowing that the QB to his inside was taking a 3 step drop and understanding that he couldn’t afford to have Pierre cross his face and blow up the A gap to the QB, Munyer quickly drop-stepped to influence Pierre up the B gap, then once Pierre committed to the B gap, Munyer closed the deal by leveraging him wide of the QB.
- Oklahoma drills and nifty QB play from Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford were the highlights of the day. Bradford’s check offs at the l.o.s. kept the defense guessing and then whenever Bradford smelled blitz, he immediately took advantage of the momentarily vacated area.
- Case in point: on one play, the very moment Patrick Peterson starting hedging in for a CB blitz, pre-snap, Bradford and WR Chad Williams did exactly what the QB and WR are taught to do—-the QB detects the flow to his right, catches the snap, and turns into the pressure, while the WR scraps his original route to hitch at the l.o.s. where he squares for the catch. Then, Williams took advantage of a poor pursuit angle from the safety, by delivering a quick inside-out move where he was able to blow past the safety up the sideline to the pylon. TD.
- Al Holcomb will correct this by assuring Peterson that with his speed, he doesn’t have to cheat as much pre-snap and by stressing to the safety how imperative it is to funnel the WR to the inside where all the help is. This is the basic “contain” rule on the edge.
- I believe that involving Peterson in the blitz schemes is going to help take his game to a new and higher level, because it is going to make him all the more aggressive as a tackler and playmaker.
- In Bradford and McCoy, the Cardinals now have a Peyton Manning type of offense that is conditioned to win the battles of cat and mouse. The fact that Bradford and McCoy already have the WRs (even the ones not named Larry) well versed in hot reads, like Chad Williams was, is a testament to McCoy’s coaching prowess and Bradford’s ability to communicate with his receivers. This is an area that David Johnson had previously struggled with, and yet Bradford and Johnson already look like they have the reads and the timing down pat.
- As for David Johnson, has anyone noticed that he is now lowering his shoulder upon contact? This is a significant adjustment and change in his running style. And with the new tackling rules, Johnson is going to be able to break more tackles than he did previously when he was bouncing off hits or relying so heavily on his stiff-arms. Johnson is also going to be able to protect the ball better. Moreover, take a look at how quickly and effectively he is transferring the ball from one hand to the other, depending on the direction of the run.
- Josh Rosen’s tight window pass downfield to J.J. Nelson was a work of art. In an earlier film session, Coach Wilks had showed and modeled to the team a clip of one of Rosen’s seam pass lasers. And then Rosen delivered another gem to Nelson, which is also significant in that making catches in tight windows through traffic has not been one of Nelson’s strengths the past few years. Clearly, Nelson is trying to elevate his game to a higher standard.
- Moving Josh Rosen’s locker between Sam Bradford’s and Mike Glennon’s is a testament to the type of astute planning we are seeing from the head coach. It is also a manifestation of the eagerness of the new staff to integrate the rookies into the team fabric as swiftly as possible.
- I got goosebumps when I saw the bricks Coach Wilks had had made for each of the players. While some may consider this a gimmick, the symbolism of the bricks, as with the symbolism of the hurdle in the locker room, is extremely important.
- It was one thing for Coack Wilks to stand up in front of the team the first night and talk about the team using a microscope and not a telescope (talking about the Super Bowl) in their detailed approach to getting better every day, but it’s yet another thing to reinforce the microscope metaphor with the symbol of the bricks —-as an essential part of building a foundation that can hold up strong in adversity. Wilks witnessed himself the Cardinals’ foundation come crumbling down like a house of cards in the Panthers’ 2015 NFC Championship blowout.
- In a literary sense, the symbolism of the bricks reminds me of two quotes:
- Henry David Thoreau wrote with regard to turning dreams into reality: “Build your castles in the sky—-now lay the foundations under them.”
- In Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” when Walter Younger declared to Mr. Lindner that despite Lindner’s lucrative bribe to keep the Youngers out of his segregated neighborhood, Mama, he, Ruth, Travis and Beneatha had every intention of moving into their new house, because, as Walter put it, “You see Mr. Lindner, my father was a very proud man and, you see Mr. Lindner, my father built that house—-brick by brick.”