5 Players off to the Best Starts at Arizona Cardinals Training Camp

Shaun Church@@NFLChurchContributor IAugust 9, 2013

5 Players off to the Best Starts at Arizona Cardinals Training Camp

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    The Arizona Cardinals are through two weeks of training camp, and many players have stood out so far. The top five will be highlighted here, ranging from rookies to 10-year veterans and those in between.

    One player has struggled throughout, but we’ve picked on him enough so that he doesn’t need to be highlighted anymore. If you want to check on his progress—or lack thereof—click here for highlights and lowlights through two weeks of camp.

    Does anyone from this list surprise you? Whom would you like to see more from during the second two-week period of camp?

Tyrann Mathieu, S/CB

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    If there was a better player at Cards camp the first two weeks, I must have missed something. Safety Tyrann Mathieu seemed to generate a turnover every day for about a week straight, be it an interception or poking the ball out from a receiver’s hands.

    He’s a natural in the defensive backfield, and no matter where he plays, he makes things happen with regularity.

    There are plays you expect athletes to make when given the opportunity. But then, there are plays that leave everyone with jaws dropped and eyes wide.

    Mathieu has made multiple plays of the latter category.

    His football instincts have returned after a full year of no football activities. That’s a testament to his ability as a player and his will to succeed and to bury past transgressions.

    If he makes plays when games matter, fans will forget he ever had a drug problem. He is well on his way to making that a reality.

Michael Floyd, WR

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    If Mathieu has been the best player overall, wide receiver Michael Floyd has been a close second and definitely the best offensive player.

    He has displayed the speed and quickness that made him a top-15 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, and his connection with quarterback Carson Palmer is noticeable daily. The two get together for multiple routes of perfection every afternoon—especially on routes over the middle.

    He might be the best deep-ball option for Palmer. Floyd's body control makes it an easy decision for the veteran quarterback to target him when the chance presents itself. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, no one adjusts to downfield passes like Floyd does.

    He could be one of the breakout players of the 2013 season, and if he were, no one would be surprised. He has worked his tail off this offseason, and it’s showed early.

Carson Palmer, QB

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    As expected, Palmer has been a vast upgrade at quarterback compared to Arizona’s comedy act at the position the past three seasons.

    He has made good decisions daily, and despite some calling him a “statue” in the pocket, he has shown an ability to avoid pressure while making accurate throws.

    The Cardinals acquired him from the Oakland Raiders for a conditional seventh-round pick in April, and as of now, it looks like the deal of the decade for the Cardinals.

    Real games have yet to be played, but the way he has thrown to his receivers and moved within the pocket, it looks like a lock that the offense will be back—or at least close—to the days when Kurt Warner was in town.

Alfonso Smith, RB

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    Running hard and surprisingly faster and shiftier than usual, Alfonso Smith has been great during camp. With so many injuries to the stable of running backs, he has a chance to make the roster and contribute.

    Even two weeks ago, that looked unlikely. But Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams have missed time with injuries, and rookie Andre Ellington suffered a head or neck injury on Tuesday.

    Mendenhall appears to be ready to return, but the news is not so bright for Williams. Despite being cleared by a clean MRI, he continues to miss practice.

    Mike Sando of ESPN notes that time may not be on Williams’ side. If the talented but oft-injured back cannot find the field, Smith appears ready to take his place in the huddle.

Daryl Washington, ILB

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    Daryl Washington reportedly will have a meeting in New York with league officials in an attempt to lower or get rid of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse program, per Craig Morgan of FoxSportsArizona.com.

    He will play the preseason though, and he has performed in camp as though the regular season has already begun. Even when practicing in only shells, he has been seen flying around and hitting running backs with reckless abandon (Smith, especially).

    The starting inside linebacker for the Cardinals has been brilliant, coming up with multiple interceptions, would-be sacks and a handful of other solid football plays.

    The fanbase has to hope his appeal is heard and awarded, because he looks as though 2013 will be his best year yet.