Dealing Cards: Gabbert impresses, rookies learn and pads on Monday
GLENDALE, Ariz. — On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals took part in their second practice of training camp and final one before the pads will be put on for the first time.
That will take place Monday, the day in which the coaches and players will really start to get a feel for who they are.
But while Sunday’s session was without pads and, therefore, with little in the way of contact, it was still an afternoon that featured some notable plays.
– Carson Palmer was given Sunday off, which meant Drew Stanton was with the first team. He took advantage of the opportunity, looking sharp with a variety of good passes. He connected with Brittan Golden for a deep touchdown early in practice, and also found John Brown for a score in the red zone. Another short pass to J.J. Nelson turned into a touchdown when the speedy receiver turned the corner and made a defender miss before taking off.
– On the other hand, Blaine Gabbert looked OK. He was intercepted early in practice by Budda Baker, but also found Golden for a really nice deep ball that was underthrown in a way that only the receiver could make the grab.
– David Johnson and Chris Johnson rotated reps, with both starting in the backfield when the Cardinals went into 11-on-11 drills.
– The Cardinals are not really a zone-read team, but when Trevor Knight has been under center he has taken off and run a few times.
– Patrick Peterson, John Brown, Andre Ellington, Chris Hubert and J.J. Nelson all saw action returning punts.
Bruce Arians told the media before practice that defensive backs Elie Bouka and Jumal Rolle were going to be held out with ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively.
Deone Bucannon (ankle, PUP list) and Jarvis Jones (NFI) also missed practice, though that was expected and it did not appear as if anyone left early due to injury.
On Saturday, first-round pick Haason Reddick said he felt good after his first practice but made some mistakes that need to be corrected.
Sunday, the team’s second and third-round picks, Budda Baker and Chad Williams, admitted they have had their rookie moments.
Baker, of course, had that interception Sunday, while Williams made some nice catches but also had a rough drop.
“But I feel like the first couple of days, I feel like I’m getting better each day,” Baker said, noting the biggest adjustment he is having to make is the number of formations he must master and communicating within them.
“Concentration, lack of concentration, just got to focus in more,” Williams said. “You get your mind tied up around doing everything right, you do something wrong.
“You kind of just have to relax.”
Easier said than done, given how none of the team’s rookies have ever gone through an NFL training camp before.
Williams understands he will get the feel for it all, and eventually settle in.
“And calm down and realize it’s just a game,” he said.
Battle for QB2
Even when the Cardinals signed Blaine Gabbert in the offseason, it was widely assumed that Drew Stanton would keep his role as the team’s No. 2 QB behind starter Carson Palmer.
While nothing has happened to cause Stanton’s stock to drop, it appears Gabbert’s is steadily rising.
“Way ahead of where I thought he’d be,” Arians said regarding the former Jacksonville Jaguar and San Francisco 49er picking up the offense. “To be able to come in — having been a part of so many systems it’s obvious he’s a very bright guy. But changing protections, seeing ‘hots’ and ‘sights’, he’s way, way ahead of where I thought he’d be and very, very pleased with that.”
Given that, might Gabbert be able to challenge for the second QB spot?
“Yeah, anybody can,” the coach said. “It’s going to be a tough one to get but yeah, that’s why he’s out there.”
Pads on, game on
Arians always likens offseason work to soccer, with players wearing shorts and contact being at a minimum.
Even when the pads come on they will not necessarily play as if it is a real game, but it will certainly be a step or two in that direction.
“Every one of those offensive and defensive linemen, for sure,” Arians said of who he is looking forward to seeing in pads. “A couple of young tight ends, outside backers and see how that goes.
“Even the running backs in blitz pick-up. See where they’re at and their technique is usually bad but the courage factor is the thing you want to see.”
While it will give Arians and the coaches a chance to evaluate their players, the pads coming on also allows the players to be more like themselves.
For safety Tyrann Mathieu, it will also be his first chance to hit in some time after finishing last season on injured reserve.
“Pretty sure it’s going to be loud and pretty physical [Monday],” he said.
As for whether or not he has to remember he will be tackling his teammates, Mathieu chuckled.
“I mean, well, just can’t hit 31 or 11,” he said. “Everybody else is free game.”
Chances are No. 3, Carson Palmer, is also off limits, but at least David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald can feel safe.
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