FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A record 14,500 fans made their way to Flagstaff to soak in the Arizona Cardinals annual Red and White Practice, presumably to see for themselves if Kevin Kolb or John Skelton had the upper hand in the well-publicized starting quarterback competition.
Instead, those fans got to see a lot of defense and both quarterbacks struggling.
It was Skelton who got first team reps, guiding the offense starting at their own 40-yard line. The first possession saw the Cards' offense go three and out, with Darnell Dockett coming up with a sack -- or at least a play that was whistled a sack by officials on a third down and 8. A play earlier, Skelton missed a wide open Larry Fitzgerald on a long pass down the middle.
Skelton's second possession netted points. After Ryan Williams ripped off a 44-yard run on a third down and 1, the offense stalled inside the 10-yard line and had to settle for a Jay Feely field goal from 25 yards.
Kolb lined up with the second team, and like Skelton, his first drive went three and out.
And like Skelton, Kolb's second drive ended in a field goal. The 13- play possession was capped off by Feely connecting from 39 yards.
Kolb led the only touchdown drive of the day, but that came later in the practice with the possession starting at the 25-yard line. On a first and ten from the 14-yard line, Kolb found tight end Rob Housler on a scoring strike over the middle.
So who had the upper hand at quarterback? Good question.
In five possessions, unofficially Skelton went 2-for-10 for 25 yards. Meanwhile, Kolb moved the ball more efficiently through the air, completing 9-of-16 passes for 91 yards and a score. But Kolb also threw two interceptions -- one by linebacker Reggie Walker and another that was picked off by rookie cornerback Larry Parker at the goal line.
"Offensively as a whole, we didn't do real well," Kolb said following the practice. "But there are things to build on, we'll look at the film and move forward."
Efficiency in the red zone was also an issue for the Cardinals offense Saturday no matter who was lining up under center. In 15 total possessions (11 starting from the 40 and 4 starting from the 25), the offense reached the red zone seven times and came away with only one touchdown and one field goal. There was the one pick thrown by Kolb and other possessions that produced nothing.
"We said this process is going to be one that goes over time. Kevin was the guy that had the second spot in the rotation, so he was playing with the number two line a lot," head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "In fact, we had a center in there that hadn't taken any snaps because we had one go down in practice yesterday.
"We had some protection issues and he didn't get a chance to sit in there, but once again he had some dropped balls too."
With the offense struggling, one could certainly make a case that the defense dominated, and many left the practice fields in Flagstaff thinking that exact thing. Defensive end Darnell Dockett was not one of them.
"Not to our standards," Dockett replied when asked if he felt the defense was dominant. "We gave up two touchdowns on goal line (situations), so that's big for us. We were pathetic at that last year - - anybody could have ran the ball against us on goal line -- so that was something we emphasized that we've got to get better.
• Running back Ryan Williams provided the biggest highlight of the afternoon, and enjoyed a solid day after all -- unofficially gaining 61 yards on 8 carries.
But the numbers at the position are getting thinner. Of course, last year's feature back Beanie Wells remains on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list as he recovers from knee surgery. Backup Javarris James sat out Saturday's practice with what Whisenhunt described as an abductor injury and the former Indianapolis Colt could miss substantial time.
James' absence left only Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Alfonso Smith and William Powell as the only healthy running backs.
• Third string quarterback Richard Bartel completed 1-of-3 passes for 12 yards while rookie Ryan Lindley connected on 2-of-7 throws for 23 yards. Lindley's one possession ended in a 43-yard field goal from Feely.