TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has mentioned a couple of times since the start of training camp how he’d like to see his defense get its hands on a few more balls, whether it be deflections, pass breakups or turnovers.
His message appears to be getting through.
The defense has been much more active, especially during Thursday’s practice, which was relocated to the team’s facility in Tempe because of a soccer match at University of Phoenix Stadium.
A number of defenders, including Yeremiah Bell, Rashad Johnson and Daryl Washington disrupted passes downfield.
No one though had a better day than Tyrann Mathieu, who picked off two passes, including one in the end zone on a ball thrown by Drew Stanton.
“Definitely, by far,” Mathieu answered when asked if it was his best day of camp. “Any time you can get turnovers for your team — I think I had a forced fumble too — any time you can get turnovers for your team, it puts your offense in a position to score and that usually puts us in position to win.”
Said fellow LSU alum Patrick Peterson, “Really excited for him. Hopefully, we’ll have to find a spot for him with the first defense.”
Right now, Mathieu is running with the second team, but is occasionally getting a snap or two with the first unit on dime packages (six defensive backs).
“I don’t think I was making as many plays when camp first started because I had that whole year off,” he said. “This week I’m getting more comfortable. I’m getting used to the shoulder pads again and just flying around now.”
Near the end of the more than 90-minute padded practice, during live tackling inside the red zone, defensive tackle Dan Williams had his left knee rolled up on and according to the Cardinals is undergoing tests to determine if there was any damage.
Moments after Williams was carted off, defensive end Calais Campbell limped off the field favoring his left leg.
The outdoor practice was the first of camp.
“It’s good for us to come out here and face these conditions and just do something different and get a shock to our bodies and check our mindset. It’s all mental,” Johnson said.
Temperatures hit 100 degrees, though it felt much worse given the humidity.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to be playing half of our games in open stadiums. We want to make sure that we can think in the heat and make sure we can execute plays when we’re tired,” Peterson said.
The Cardinals will be back indoors in Glendale Friday.
“We want to get outside and get a little toughness working in the heat,” Arians said. “There’s some dog days of camp that need to happen. It’s tough to get it in the air conditioning.”