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Defense dominates Cardinals scrimmage

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-
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.

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