Dealing Cards: Byron Leftwich to call plays on Saturday
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals held one of the shorter practices of their training camp Wednesday, as the team finished things up in a tidy one hour and 48 minutes.
It was an uneven practice, to say the least, though that should likely be expected with starting quarterback Carson Palmer getting the day off to rest. With Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Trevor Knight under center more passes hit the ground than normal, but that does not mean there were not some offensive highlights.
– Stanton got off to a rough start Wednesday, looking inaccurate on throws of all distances and being intercepted by Patrick Peterson in the end zone. He did seem to heat up in the second of half of practice, making some nice throws.
– Kicker Phil Dawson was again solid, missing from 28 yards once but converting on every other field goal attempt.
– Red zone touchdowns were scored by Carlton Agudosi (from Blaine Gabbert) and Andre Ellington, who raced around the edge on a run.
– Harlan Miller picked off a tipped Blaine Gabbert pass.
– In drills where offensive linemen were matched up with defensive linemen and linebackers, Evan Boehm seemed to struggle. In consecutive plays, he was run through by Frostee Rucker and around by Robert Nkemdiche.
– Jared Veldheer and Haason Reddick seemed to come close to a scuffle, but the conflict ended before it could really begin.
Rookies Chad Williams (shin splints) and Rudy Ford (hamstring) missed Wednesday’s practice, while Philip Wheeler, Jarvis Jones (back), Aaron Dobson (hamstring) and Deone Bucannon (ankle) remained out.
Brittan Golden, who missed Tuesday’s practice for an undisclosed reason, was back.
Byron Leftwich, playcaller
Byron Leftwich is in his second season on the Cardinals’ staff but his first season as the team’s QB coach, and on Saturday against Oakland, the former NFL QB will get his initial taste of being a playcaller.
Bruce Arians announced Wednesday that Leftwich will be in charge of the offense because, he said, it’s another step in the young coach’s development.
That’s all well and good, but Leftwich is not Arians, who normally calls the plays for the Cardinals, or even offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who held the role last week against Dallas.
The change is really no trouble for QB Carson Palmer, who said it will be a different sounding voice in his headset but noted Leftwich and Arians see the game very similarly.
“Byron doesn’t have a ton of, or much, history calling plays, but just his knowledge of the offense, his knowledge of being the guy that is hearing it through his headset, is going to serve him and give him some experience,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Palmer added he believes Leftwich has a future as a playcaller, though he admitted it’s “a little odd” given that he and Leftwich were part of the same 2003 draft class, when Palmer was chosen first overall by Cincinnati and Leftwich went seventh to Jacksonville.
“It’s even more odd that I’m older than he is, which I just found out the other day, from Google,” he said. “But yeah, it is a little bit. It’s just different. It’s something I haven’t experienced.”
Both are 37 years of age, though Leftwich was born on Jan. 14, 1980, while Palmer entered the world on Dec. 27, 1979.
Asked what made him look up Leftwich’s age, Palmer said he got into an argument with somebody.
“I was like, ‘there’s no way I’m older than him’ and then Google settled the bet,” he said.
How many sacks?
The Denver Broncos’ Von Miller made headlines when he said recording 30 sacks in a season is doable.
With the NFL record for sacks in a season being 22.5 (Michael Strahan, 2001), the idea that a player could not only reach that mark but add another 7.5 may seem a bit outlandish.
Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones was unwilling to say it was impossible.
“Von Miller’s a tremendous player; I feel like he’s going with the whole ‘if you shoot for the stars, if you fall short you’ll land on the moon,'” he said. “But we’ll see, we’ll see what happens. He’s a great player and hopefully he gets 30. I’m happy for him.”
Jones was also not ready to put himself in the race to 30, saying only that his goals involve doing better in 2017 than he did in 2016, when he recorded 11 sacks.
Jaron is looking strong
One of the best storylines of camp is just how good receiver Jaron Brown has looked. After missing most of last season with a torn ACL, he began things a bit limited but has since not only participated fully, but played well.
On Wednesday, Arians said the fifth-year receiver is back.
“He doesn’t need a brace anymore,” he said. “I mean it’s amazing because usually a guy has a gimp that year after knee surgery. I don’t see anything out of him. It’s amazing.”
To his credit, Brown himself said he’s surprised by how far he has come so soon.
“It actually is surprising, especially when you hear about guys,” he said. “This is my ninth month — so nine months out; especially when you hear of guys nine months out, you kind of hear them coming back with some sort of limp when they’re coming full speed.”
Brown credited his rehab as well as the trainers who worked with him to get to this point. It helped, he said, that his injury was a straight ACL tear without any other complications.
“I was kind of able to bounce back much quicker,” he said. “I started feeling good, I would say around that seven-month mark.”
Brown added he stopped thinking about his knee around OTAs, which allowed him to then get back acclimated to playing receiver again and working on his craft.