They practiced at University of Phoenix Stadium in front of thousands of fans, in San Diego with the Chargers and, a couple times, in front of only the media.
Through it all, the Arizona Cardinals feel like they are a better team now than when they started and are ready to compete for a spot in Super Bowl LI in Houston.
Of course, as is the case with any training camp, it went better for some players than others. Here, I’ll give you four players who, in my opinion, saw their stock rise as well as four whose, for whatever reason, took a hit.
The receiver isn’t exactly a new name to fans, as he has caught double-digit passes in each of his first three seasons and has scored four touchdowns. His biggest issue has been a lack of opportunities, which he received more of in camp due to injuries at the position. Not surprisingly, the 26-year-old took advantage. No. 13 making a big catch or scoring a touchdown was a regular occurrence in camp, and his performance prompted head coach Bruce Arians to at one point call him the team’s most consistent wideout.
A fifth-round pick in 2016 out of Harvard, Toner’s roster spot seemed anything but secure entering camp, as he was just one of a handful of young linemen hoping to land one of the final offensive line spots. It’s tough to say how well he performed on a daily basis, but there were times over the last week of camp where he was running with the first-team offense at left guard. Granted, that had much to do with players ahead of him being injured, but still, he did enough to warrant the chance and Arians came away impressed, even singling him out as a player who stood out over the last month or so. Now, does that mean he is guaranteed to stick on the 53-man roster? No, but you have to like his chances a lot more now than you did before training camp started.
In a way it should not come as a surprise that Ellington has played well. We all saw him in 2013, and there is a reason he was at one time seen as the focal point of the offense. But now, finally healthy, Ellington is showing just how dynamic a player he can be. Arians has talked about how nice it is to see the fourth-year pro running on two feet, and the results have been a sight to behold. Ellington is as quick and fast as ever, and he has been effective not only as a runner, but as a receiver, too.
Remember the 2014 second-round pick out of Notre Dame? He battled injuries in his first two seasons and failed to make much of an impact outside of a couple touchdown catches in Cleveland last season, but this camp has remained healthy and shown flashes of the player the team originally thought it was getting. He was elevated to the first-team offense while the team was in San Diego (in part due to injuries ahead of him but mostly, apparently, due to his own performance), and has shown good hands, speed and power as a receiver to pair with his already sound blocking.
The Cardinals were excited that Gresham turned down a longer, more lucrative deal in free agency to come back to Arizona on a one-year contract, and given his veteran status, it would be unwise to discount him based on a rough camp. That said, Gresham battled some injuries as well as drops, which did not exactly give him the look of a player who is primed to make a big impact this season. However, he is healthy now and given that he is a favorite of QB Carson Palmer’s, he will likely get his share of opportunities.
It’s not Smokey’s fault that he suffered a concussion in the early days of camp, nor should the fact that it took him weeks to recover and get cleared to return be held against him. Yet, when a player misses as much time as he has with an injury like the one he sustained — one that he still seems to have lingering effects from even though he has been cleared — it is reasonable to wonder how ready he will be for the Week 1 opener. Brown is a key part of Arizona’s offense and with him on the field their passing game is that much more difficult to stop. But until he can make it through consecutive practices that involve him taking some hits, his status is still very much in doubt.
Fells seemed to be on the right track at the end of last season, a campaign in which he caught 21 passes for 311 yards with three touchdowns (and than another four passes for 50 yards and a score in the playoffs). And to be fair, outside of a rough sequence in preseason game No. 2, he has not exactly done anything terrible. Yet Niklas’ ascension to a starting role has sent Fells to the second-team, and that’s something that did not seem possible as recently as a couple months ago.
It’s never a good thing when the coach says your roster spot isn’t exactly secure, and while anyone who follows the Cardinals could have guessed that would be the case for Riddick, it was still a bit surprising to hear. But, the 2015 fifth-round pick has struggled to stay on the field due to injury, and has not exactly made a name for himself when on the field. He is part of a crowded group of players vying for a linebacker job, and unless he can get back on the field soon and make some plays, he may find himself out of a job in another week.
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