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Cards Camp 2018 Recap: The Red-White Practice

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A starting offensive lineman left on the cart, who on defense stole the show, and will Josh Rosen be challenging Sam Bradford soon?

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-Training Camp Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In 2017, Arizona Cardinals undrafted free agent cornerback Ronald Zamort had earned the praise of head coach Bruce Arians and had worked his way up on the depth chart to the #2 cornerback spot.

During the Red-White scrimmage, Zamort went up and came down with an interception, tearing his ACL in the process. The Cardinals went out and signed CB Tramon Williams as a free agent to replace the position.

Now?

They’re waiting with baited breath history doesn’t repeat itself.

During a typical run play near the end of practice, C A.Q. Shipley went down on the field and looked to be in quite a bit of pain with an apparent injury to his right leg.

Shipley has been a stalwart on the Cardinals’ offensive line, having not missed a game since he earned the starting job two years ago amidst a lot of turnover on the line.

After he was able to walk off the field, the entire offensive line came out to console him and he disappeared into the pop-up injury tent on the sideline, along with Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz stayed with A.Q. until the cart came for him.

Shipley had a towel over his face and looked upset, which is usually a bad, bad sign.

Shipley missing time, or worst-case, being done for the season, would be a huge blow to an offensive line that’s been talked up throughout camp and has been loaded with veteran players and a healthy D.J. Humphries. Now, it’s 3rd round rookie Mason Cole, a rookie who notably was the first true freshman to start at Michigan and never missed a game in four seasons, who’s taking over for Shipley’s snaps.

Hopefully Shipley’s injury won’t be serious enough that Cole will need to see extensive playing time as a rookie.

Per Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com, Wilks had even been talking up how impressed he was with Shipley’s grittiness:

Shipley is likely heading for an MRI to find out what the damage is. Now, with the biggest news out of the way, it’s time to talk about the rest of the top stories from the Red-White practice:

Four Pro Bowl Players Honored In Front Of 20,000 Fans

Michael Bidwill and Steve Wilks kicked off the annual fan fest, which saw the majority of the lower bowl filled, by presenting the four Pro Bowl jerseys to Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones and Budda Baker.

Wilks was especially effusive in asking the fans to be fired up all season long:

Denzel Washington (a common comparison many make Wilks out to) would be proud of his NFL counterpart.

Defense Rocked The Practice-Opening One-On-One’s Today

It was the offensive and defensive line focus to begin, as Rodney Gunter squared off against UDFA G Josh Allen (obviously not the Bills quarterback) and Corey Peters went up against C A.Q. Shipley. Peters looked dominant in both reps and it’s easy to say that he’s probably one of the more underrated players on this Cardinals team.

Speaking of Josh Allen, he seems to be locked into the 2nd offensive line unit as a right guard, so watch to see if he has a chance to make the 53-man roster this year. Right now 2nd-year T Will Holden seems to be the 2nd team left tackle, moving John Wetzel to the right side.

Fitz Finds Another Victim In The Real McCoy

Larry Fitzgerald has made it a pattern the past few years of finding fellow teammates, coaches and even former players to sneak up on and take to the ground, as a bit of a loving prank.

So far in training camp, he had snuck up on S Antoine Bethea and taken him to the ground a few days previous. Today’s victim was none other than offensive coordinator Mike McCoy:

Notice how Larry never lets go of the football the entire time he’s making the tackle.

Now that’s what I call ball control.

McCoy’s reaction and exaggeration, taking it all in with good fun, isn’t something you always see from a former head coach and current coordinator. Sure, Larry’s enough of a legend to get away with it.

In any case, these little interactions are part of what makes sports meaningful.

Who will be next?

Budda Might Be Special After All

Budda Baker received a pro bowl jersey in a presentation from Michael Bidwill before the start of practice, but had been notably absent from the majority of special teams drills so far through camp. Many have speculated that he would be pulled from his punt and kick coverage duties as he took on an important role as a starter on defense.

Well, there seems to be at least one special teams drill that he will be taking part in this year that we saw at practice today:

If Budda can come off the edge using his explosiveness, perhaps he won’t be fully gone from special teams after all.

Speaking of special teams, Phil Dawson ended up going even further than 50 yards, hitting a kick down the middle from 55 yards out. I think there’s not much of a question that he will be the guy this season ahead of Matt McCrane.

Chase Edmonds Is Arguably The Biggest Story of Camp

Just how good of a camp is Chase Edmonds having?

Good enough that not just once, but twice, star Running Back David Johnson lined up at fullback, with Edmonds as the back behind him.

Seriously.

Johnson ended up blocking for the smaller Edmonds on the play, but on another one both ran out on a pattern.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think DJ will be switching positions permanently any time soon.

With the Cardinals having two three-down backs who can block, catch and run, having both Johnson and Edmonds out on the field at the same time gives different looks to take advantage of defenders who can’t keep up with them in the run or receiving game.

On another play, Johnson and Edmonds were motioned out of the backfield and lined up on the left side of the line out wide as receivers. Going from a typical I-formation to suddenly being able to go 5-wide is a testament to the flexibility that OC Mike McCoy wants in his offense.

Despite the fact that David Johnson is a legitimate superstar at the position, Edmonds has played so well that he might deserve to be the top overall story of camp, outside maybe of Sam Bradford.

And now, onto the aforementioned quarterback:

Sam Bradford Looks Terrific...Except On That One Deep Ball

Before everyone grabs the torches and pitchforks, let’s make something clear about Rosen. He’s a rookie learning his first NFL offense and the adjustment is difficult.

It’s an uphill climb, and always was, to pass Bradford. Seemingly, he’s already seemed to pass Mike Glennon, who got exactly zero reps in the team scrimmage at the end of practice. But he’s not close to Bradford’s level of play.

Bradford seems to have the offense down pat and is moving around well, well enough in fact that twice he took off running when there was daylight around him. His confidence in his knee is clearly back and he’s playing without hesitation.

In one case, that might not have been a good thing, as he was intercepted on a deep pass into double coverage by Patrick Peterson on a pretty easy takeaway for him.

Peterson has intercepted Sam Bradford three times in his career, the most of any NFL quarterback he’s picked off.

His new fit in Steve Wilks defense where he’ll get to get his hands on more balls should make for a fun season for him. But getting back to Bradford, it’s becoming more evident that not only is he the starter, but he looks like that quarterback who threw up point after point on the Saints defense in the MNF 2017 opener. The question is, can he stay that way?

We’ll find out, starting next Saturday with the preseason game against the Chargers.

Josh Rosen Still Ahead of Glennond Isn’t Closing The Gap On Bradford

And he probably won’t anytime soon.

Josh Rosen’s been called the most pro-ready rookie quarterback in the draft and in camp this year, and while that might be true, he’s also been called a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.

...Let’s tap the brakes on that.

No need to slam on them just yet, but a gentle tap is needed from where Rosen is.

He’s had ups and downs, which is expected of most all rookies, not just quarterbacks drafted in the top ten, but Rosen just plain doesn’t look ready to make a push for the starting job.

When he knows what’s happening and gets a chance to play to his strengths, he’s looked great, with one such well-timed back-shoulder throw to Trent Sherfield on a redzone drill today that looked like the perfectionist who got drafted in the top ten, or a similar pass play to the back of the end zone somehow out of a pile that the receiver couldn’t haul in one-handed.

Rosen also had a few misses and some incompletions, as well as some times where he placed the ball a bit behind the receivers and double-clutched the football more than once today. His time in the scrimmage drills ended up with a throw with no one in the area (with no clue if the 2nd team receiver ran the wrong route, and that was followed up with a wonky throw toward Chad Williams that was a bit too wide past his outstretched fingers.

On that play, however, it should be noted that Rosen’s placement of the ball was partially due to the tight coverage on Williams. Instead of placing it inside for an interception, Rosen put it in a spot away from the corner.

But...too far away.

That’s a clear sign he’s not ready just yet as the adjusting timing to the speed of the game and decision-making within an offensive structure is the toughest transition for college players to make in the pros.

And, to be fair, even during his incredible rookie season David Johnson said that he didn’t feel perfectly comfortable and confident until Week 8 of his rookie season...and his position isn’t nearly as cerebral as Rosen’s. Heck, Carson Wentz didn’t look great and got hurt and ended up rolling out Week 1 to a successful rookie season and an MVP-caliber year the next.

But after seeing two live practices, the biggest takeaway from Rosen’s play so far is that the hype train or thought that he might outright beat Sam Bradford at this pace is far-fetched, as the situation is closer to 2017 in having an established veteran in Palmer (Bradford), a permanent backup like Stanton (Glennon) and a younger guy drafted in the top ten with something to prove (Gabbert/Logan Thomas) and it doesn’t look to be changing minus an injury. Rosen just simply isn’t ready yet...and he’s even said that.

Speaking of Glennon...

Glennon Doesn’t Get A Lot Of Snaps In Practice

Perhaps the team wants to give Rosen the snaps he might need if he’s going to be playing over Mike Glennon if Bradford should go down.

Or maybe they like giving Charles Kanoff a chance to see if he can stick on the practice squad. Either way, Mike Glennon seemed to barely touch the ball today and while he’s not in any danger of being cut, it’s notable that at the rate of practice, if Bradford misses any time, Glennon probably won’t be needed to come into the game to spell Rosen to get a bit more time to adjust to the pros.

Because Rosen seems to already look better than Glennon. Still, it’ll be something to watch in the preseason games.

The Cardinals Safeties Are Going To Be Fun

Antoine Bethea gave Chase Edmonds a big pop today during the padded practice, big enough to send the rookie rolling on the ground as his teammates on the defensive side whooped and hollered around him.

Bethea might be as old as Larry Fitzgerald but he still has range and can bring the pain. He doesn’t come off the field, even after he was a part-time player in James Bettcher’s defense last year. Budda Baker also seems to be fitting nicely into his role, moving around and blitzing or covering as seen fit, while Tre Boston’s been taking on the center-fielder role like Rashad Johnson had a few years ago.

Arizona’s defense will be the identity of their team this year—fast, physical and can take the ball away.

Has Robert Nkemdiche Arrived?

I counted no less than three times that Robert Nkemdiche caused a ton of disruption and would have forced a pressure on Sam Bradford against the starting offensive line unit.

He’s been no stranger to having good practices (it’s been injuries and contributing in games that’s been the issue) but in the past when he would rotate with DT Olsen Pierre and DT Rodney Gunter under Bettcher, he seems to be a permanent player with their first-team reps with the Cardinals. Perhaps this might be the year he breaks out in a role that fits him, and there’s been no negatives or false starts indicating lack of focus like in years past.

If he can live up to his billing as a first-round talent, the Cardinals adding him, Peters and Chandler Jones will be a nasty combination that’s sorely underrated by the national media right now.

Or maybe Nkemdiche is who he is and will go back to being invisible in games once they are playing on Sundays. That’s up to him, at this point.

Deone’s Replacement and the Linebacker Issue

Without Deone Bucannon, the base defense for the Cardinals was still nickel personnel even though you’d have guessed it wouldn’t have been.

Linebacker Vontarrious Dora filled in in Bucannon’s spot, but it’s notable that the Cardinals don’t have a ton of depth at the position, even after signing Arthur Moats, and there’s a lot of question marks there.

Josh Bynes bounced around the league for a while and Hassan Reddick is learning his position still after transitioning from defensive end in college and Bucannon’s rookie contract is up at the end of the year. Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like he will be absent for long:

But the linebackers in Arizona, despite the investment, have to step up this year. And oddly enough, it wouldn’t surprise me if they add another veteran to that position after cuts at some point.

And the final big takeaway...

Expect to see a rookie revolution in Arizona this year.

Should Josh Rosen see starting time this season and the worst be the case with A.Q. Shipley, the first four picks of this year’s draft might be in line for MAJOR rookie impact. Rosen is Rosen, but if Mason Cole is your starting center with Chase Edmonds and Christian Kirk getting a ton of time, this might be one of the most important rookie classes in the history of the organization, even more than Rosen.

It’s a refreshing difference from Arians and Whisenhunt’s experiences with rookies but also is a testament to how well they’ve played....and how Arizona doesn’t have much else to speak of at some of those positions.

Now, let’s go with the rapid-fire reactions:

Quick Hits:

-Trent Sherfield has games to play (remember Stephen Williams?) but if he continues to show what he has, he might end up making the 53 man roster and contributing

-Chad Williams is embracing special teams and anytime it’s him vs. Patrick Peterson, it’s entertaining. Last year, Williams apparently didn’t seem to be too keen to do work on special teams and that impacted part of his playing time under Bruce Arians. Seeing a new mentality is refreshing, as he’s a big receiver who can make physical catches and has on occasion at camp.

-There’s still no receiver close to Larry so far.

-Christian Kirk has his strengths and had a great punt return today. He’s competing for that spot with RB T.J. Logan but seems already in line with the rest of the one’s as receivers and the lineup of Fitzgerald followed by Butler, Kirk, Nelson, Little and Sherfield seems to be your WR core this year. There’s not a single #2 guy right now but they might have a lot of #3’s and will use all of them at once.

-The #3 receiver in catches on the team might be a tight end. McCoy used his TE’s a LOT, even lining them up outside on occasion in practice.

-Prediction: David Johnson won’t hit 2,000 yards....because Chase Edmonds gets 500+ yards of those yards in the running and receiving game.

-Corey Willis is a speedster with some hop. He came down with two tough catches and made some separation against the 3’s and 4’s.

-Chris Campbell was the 2nd team corner along with Deatrick Nichols with Lou Young III out with an injury. As a 6th round pick he’s looked pretty good when he’s gotten a chance.

-Brandon Williams is doing good in coverage in camp and on special teams. The latter might be his ticket to a roster spot this year.

-The crowd of 20,000 was involved and raised over $25,000 for the 100 club for fallen and injured Arizona Dept. of Public Safety officers, in a crowd that includes AZ’s state governor:

Well done, Birdgang.

That’s all for now, folks, we’ll check back in with updates on A.Q. Shipley’s status as well as more leading up to the first preseason game.

Glad to all the fans I was able to meet and talk with at this year’s camp; the best fans in football.

You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter.