Sunday marked the first day of the 2013 season in which the Arizona Cardinals practiced in full pads. That meant more contact, but it was not a full-contact practice by any stretch.
The decision to forbid tackling is wise by head coach Bruce Arians, as is any attempt to minimize the possibility of training camp injuries. As it is, right guard Daryn Colledge and running back Ryan Williams missed some or all of Sunday’s work for one injury reason or another, per Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.
Other than a few highlight plays, it was a rather routine afternoon for the Cardinals; nothing great or horrible happened. Check out highlights and lowlights from Day 1 and Day 2 and come back for Day 3 analysis.
Two Who Impressed
Nate Potter Stands Out
Already noted is the fact that with the Cardinals signing Eric Winston, there would be no position changing for now. Nate Potter will battle Levi Brown for the starting left tackle spot, and Winston will battle Bobby Massie for the right tackle spot.
Those who thought Brown was a lock to start this season based on comments from head coach Bruce Arians earlier this offseason—present company included—are mistaken.
There is a fierce battle going on for lead blindside blocker.
Potter had been playing just average football the first two days, but he stepped up Sunday to shut down pass-rushers regularly, including newcomer John Abraham—who has been handling Brown well so far.
One play in particular stood out from his day of work. Abraham used a bull rush on Potter in an attempt to drive him back into quarterback Carson Palmer, and when he did, Potter stuck his left foot into the turf and pushed back, stoning Abraham where he stood.
Brown has been unable to do that.
Michael Floyd Making Adjustments
Michael Floyd’s body control is a God-given talent not many possess. He can contort his body a la Larry Fitzgerald to make catches, and that was on display Sunday. In fact, he has had to make at least one crazy adjustment to a deep ball every day of practice so far.
But Floyd’s good day went beyond coming back to a deep ball or leaping high to snag a pass. Floyd did not drop one pass—he had done so both Friday and Saturday—and he hauled in at least two red-zone touchdowns to boot.
His presence on the field is becoming more noticeable, and at a time when Palmer and Fitzgerald are having issues connecting as quarterback and receiver, that is a welcome sign.
Two Who Depressed
More Ryan Lindley Inaccuracies
It is almost comical watching Ryan Lindley throw deep. His best downfield passes are still slightly off and force receivers to adjust by either speeding up or slowing down.
If he has hit a receiver in stride the last three days, my eyes must have been buried in a tweet or I must have been writing notes, because I haven’t seen it.
Where his out-route accuracy had been good the first two days, Sunday was a different story altogether. Lindley missed wide one play, then missed short the next, as if the latter were a comeback route.
We still must trust Arians’ judgment on this one, but it sure is frustrating to watch.
Levi Brown Struggles vs. John Abraham
As noted above, Brown had issues with Abraham Sunday.
Had it been a live game with Abe on the opposing team, he would have sacked Palmer at least once against Brown.
It appeared Abraham was not going full tilt at times, but he still was walking Brown backward.
Pass-blocking has always been the Achilles heel for Brown. With Potter showing he has improved, time could be running out for Brown at left tackle. He needs to buck up and get it together if he wants to start Week 1.
Other News and Notes
—Per Darren Urban, first-round pick Jonathan Cooper agreed to a four-year deal Sunday and will be at practice Monday. He must sign his contract first and run the mandatory conditioning test, but with that all surely being taken care of in the morning, Cooper should be out there for the 2 p.m. afternoon session, which is open to the public.
—Rookie running backs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington showed up to play Sunday. Both made themselves known on the field by picking up blitzes to help keep the pocket clean, and both had a nice run during the team scrimmage. Taylor is very patient and follows blocks well. Ellington plays faster than his 4.61-second 40-yard dash, per NFL.com, would indicate, and it showed time and time again.
—Cornerback Patrick Peterson split out wide as a receiver multiple times Sunday (X-mo video here), running a hitch route and a go route. He caught the hitch, and the deep ball was underthrown by Lindley and broken up by fellow cornerback Javier Arenas. Darren Urban blogged about Peterson after practice and had this quote on the deep ball from him:
I told Ryan, "When number 21 is out there, make him run." I don’t want to have to try and turn around and have to catch the ball. I have enough speed I’m pretty comfortable, anywhere you throw the ball, I’m going to go get it.
—While speaking at the NFL Scouting Combine in February on mobile quarterbacks running the read-option offense, Arians was quoted by Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk as saying, “The more you put the QB in harm’s way, the more harm will come to him.”
Yet, he had an entire session of practice Sunday dedicated to his four pocket quarterbacks working on read-option pitches. No one looked comfortable or particularly adept at running these plays, so perhaps it was just to shake things up a bit and give the defense a look at a San Francisco/Seattle-type play.
—Running back Rashard Mendenhall finally showed up for practice Sunday. He made cuts upfield and looked better than he did during either of the first two afternoon practices.
—Running back Ryan Williams did sit out most of practice after being knocked on his backside by linebacker Jasper Brinkley. As linked above, he had ice on his surgically repaired right knee afterward, but he was walking on it just fine, and the ice came off before practice ended.