GLENDALE, Ariz. — This time one year ago, a theme was starting to develop at Arizona Cardinals training camp.
Was the defense really this good, or was the offense really that bad?
Turns out, it was a lot of both.
Heading into its second season, Ray Horton’s group showed on a daily basis that it was going to be one of the NFL’s better units.
At the same time, the offense showed that it would be hamstrung by a shoddy quarterback situation as well as issues along the offensive line.
But as the saying goes, time heals all wounds. And, in this case, time brought with it much-needed change in both the coaching staff and talent level on the roster.
Nowadays the offense isn’t the defense’s whipping boy in practice, and as we saw last Friday in Green Bay, it is actually capable of scoring some points.
Camp may not be in the cool pines of Flagstaff, but this is surely a breath of fresh air.
“It’s back forth a lot more often, and I respect that,” defensive end Calais Campbell said of the training camp battles. “That means the offense is really good because I think our defense is really good.”
Added receiver Andre Roberts: “We’ve got a lot of smart guys on our team. We’ve got a lot of young guys that need to step up, but we’ve got older guys that have done well in the past in this league and we understand what offense is about.”
Roberts added that it is about building chemistry and becoming the best they can be, which may sound cliché but it’s also true. There figure to be new faces at quarterback, running back and along the offensive line, meaning at least half of the offense will have a different look than it did to finish the 2012 season.
Good luck finding anyone who thinks that is a bad thing, by the way.
Gone is the QB battle that led to nothing but tears; in its place is veteran Carson Palmer, who completed 4-of-6 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opener.
Gone is a conservative approach on offense; in its place is an aggressive scheme that has potential to excite fans and put points on the scoreboard.
“We’re playing offense on offense,” Palmer said. “We’re not playing defensive offense, and we’re not worried about scoreboards, we’re not worried about the other team’s offense, what they’re doing. Bruce is going to call his game plan. He’s going to call his plays and we’re going to go out and try to execute them.”
Gone is a sieve of an offensive line; in its place is a high draft pick as well as free agent pickups that have improved group’s talent and depth.
“This will probably be one of the toughest offensive lines I’ve had to make in my eight years in the NFL,” veteran Daryn Colledge said. “So the competition out there is stiff and I promise, the seven guys we dress each week are going to be the best seven guys out there.”
And while it’s still way too early in the season to say the offense will be good, the seeds are there and it may only be a matter of time before they blossom.
Through all that, perhaps it is Campbell who put it best.
Saying he believes the offense will be “top-notch” this year and that seeing their improvement inspires the defense even more Campbell, who was a rookie when the team reached Super Bowl XLII, noted that he doesn’t really know why there seems to be such a dramatic improvement. In fact, the “why” is of little significance to him.
“I’m just happy they are who they are right now,” he said.
That makes two of us.