GLENDALE, Ariz.—It was a hard-hitting Day 9 at Arizona Cardinals training camp despite being in shells and shoulder pads only. Monday’s practice following an off day Sunday was sharp on both sides of the ball once again, and more than a few players had their share of time in the spotlight.
Not all was cheerful and jubilant, however. One quarterback thought Monday was also an off day, and it showed on the field.
Also, defensive lineman Ricky Lumpkin suffered what looked like a lower leg injury. A cart was initially brought out to help him get off the field, but he wound up very gingerly walking off under his own power.
Here are highlights and lowlights from Day 9 of Cards camp.
Note: All information used here was obtained firsthand by the writer.
Three Who Impressed
Alfonso Smith Continues Great Camp
Alfonso Smith apparently has no problem picking on players larger than he is. Twice Monday, he stuck his nose exactly where it belonged to take out a blitzing linebacker—through the A-gap.
Without those pickups, both plays would have resulted in sacks.
He also continued his furious running style, making defenders miss by playing as though Monday were a live game.
For Smith, it may as well be.
He is playing for a roster spot despite the injuries to both Rashard Mendenhall, who continues to sit out with knee tendinitis, and Ryan Williams, who drew the attention of his head coach Monday for missing the past week of practice.
Bruce Arians also gave Smith a healthy shout-out, via Craig Grialou of ArizonaSports.com.
He’s a downhill runner. He’s bringing it every time, and as our safeties and linebackers have found out, he’s a pretty good wall to try to run through on pass protection. Alfonso is having a great camp. I’m excited for Alfonso because I think he’s making a real big step in making our football team.
Charles Hawkins States His Case
Undrafted rookie wide receiver Charles Hawkins has become the favorite target of backup quarterback Drew Stanton. Stanton feeds Hawkins the ball regularly, and the connection has begun spilling over to Carson Palmer.
Everyone has taken notice of No. 89 when he is on the field; it’s hard not to.
He caught another touchdown pass from Stanton Monday. The two have hooked up for a touchdown pass multiple times throughout camp. Stanton completed many passes to Hawkins during live scrimmage, including the score.
With LaRon Byrd still out with a concussion, Hawkins is in the mix already, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.
Monday’s practice only increases his chances.
Daryl Washington All over the Field
Pro Bowl inside linebacker Daryl Washington is listed as the third-string inside linebacker, per the official website’s first depth chart of the season. Bob McManaman of AZCentral.com gave his thoughts on why that is:
Wanting to see him more and getting him extra playing time before his four-game suspension to start the regular season could be the reason for the move. Or it could be that Arians wants Karlos Dansby to start both pre- and post-suspension and also wants Reggie Walker running the second-string defense.
Walker has been impressive in his own right during camp, and he could be a lock to run the backup defense all season while being in a part-time rotational role with the starters.
Washington picked off Stanton during red-zone drills Monday, and he also would have notched a sack of No. 5 if hitting quarterbacks were not off-limits.
He Who Depressed
Drew Stanton Looks Rattled, Inaccurate
Monday afternoon was rough for Stanton. Early during scrimmage, the defense blitzed the A-gaps and had a linebacker running free at him. He delivered a rushed pass over the middle, but it fell incomplete behind his intended target, tight end Rob Housler.
Stanton was responsible for the aforementioned interception to Washington, and he also threw one to free safety Tyrann Mathieu, who continued his torrent of pass breakups and pickoffs Monday.
Stanton turned it on late when he looked primarily to Hawkins during two-minute offense work, but his overall performance was shaky compared to his solid first week of camp.
Carson Palmer Report
Palmer was again sharp Monday and seems to be getting better by the day. He looked comfortable making every throw.
While his protection broke down at times and left him with less time than he had Saturday, he did not seem to care nor notice; he delivered strikes to everyone once again.
His favorite target Monday was receiver Michael Floyd, which is turning into quite the connection. Palmer hit Floyd accurately multiple times, including once on a jump-ball throw that resulted in a touchdown.
Other News and Notes
—The starting offensive line struggled some early, but they appeared to get better as practice moved along. Especially impressive was former seventh-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, guard Paul Fanaika, who has started in place of the injured Daryn Colledge at right guard since last week. Fanaika moved the line of scrimmage well Monday, and at one point during O-Line vs. D-Line drills, he stoned defensive end Darnell Dockett as he attempted a bull rush.
—Third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley had a decent day. At one point during red-zone drills, he threw a pass through traffic and into the hands of cornerback Javier Arenas, who ran it out of the end zone before the on-hand referees stopped the play. Lindley came back with two consecutive touchdown passes to tight ends D.C. Jefferson and Alex Gottlieb, respectively.
—The starting secondary (including nickel corner) remained the same Monday. At some point, it may be time to try out Tyrann Mathieu with the first unit. But as of now, when the first-team nickel defense is out there, Antoine Cason plays the outside and starter Jerraud Powers drops to the slot.
—Over the weekend, a scout told Cardinals radio color analyst Ron Wolfley that Mathieu has been “pound-for-pound, the best player on the field,” via ArizonaSports.com. Having seen him all but one day, there is no disagreement here.
—In addition to Fanaika performing well Monday, second-year guard Senio Kelemete did his part. At a time when the once-deep offensive line Arians built through the draft and free agency had thinned due to injury, those two stepping up is a big relief. It would obviously be in the best interest of the team to have Colledge back and healthy, but there could be a couple nice interior pieces lying in wait.
—Inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley has been on the brink (yes, that’s an intended pun) of making the “Impressed” section of these columns for nearly a week. He would have made it Monday had it not been for so many others making plays.