The live scrimmage for Day 7 of Arizona Cardinals training camp started off quickly. It is a play that could be heavily featured with head coach Bruce Arians calling plays—but we will get to that in a minute.
Friday’s practice was sharp on multiple levels.
It can be said that the defense is not scheming for the offense and vice versa, so there are sure to be some big plays on both sides of the ball. But every blow from the offense was countered by a blow from the defense in Day 7’s scrimmage.
It really was fun to watch.
Three Who Impressed
Tyrann Mathieu Turning Heads
Thursday’s practice was a bit of a coming-out party for rookie third-round pick Tyrann Mathieu.
The player formerly (or still?) known as the Honey Badger picked off two passes in the first outdoors practice of training camp—one off Ryan Lindley and one off Drew Stanton (seen here, via AZCardinals.com).
Mathieu picked off Lindley again Friday. He also batted multiple passes away, including on an out route run by wide receiver Charles Hawkins where Mathieu had to dive in front of him to knock it away.
He laid the boom on undrafted rookie free agent receiver Jaron Brown, which drew a “defenseless receiver” penalty. But it was a great hit nonetheless.
Rob Housler Proving to Be a Deep Threat
Back to the play alluded to in the open. On the first play from scrimmage, tight end Rob Housler ran a wheel route with a linebacker in coverage.
Housler is too fast for a linebacker to run with him, so that left him wide open. Quarterback Carson Palmer hit him with a nice touch pass over the top.
The play would have gone for a touchdown (of 90 yards, no less) had the on-hand referees not blown the play dead.
The speedy tight end found his way behind the defense multiple times Friday, and it is beginning to feel as though his breakout season could finally be upon us.
Patrick Peterson, Jack of All Trades
It’s getting silly just how many different ways Arians is using his best athlete on the field.
“Silly” because as much potential as Patrick Peterson has to be a true shutdown corner this season, he has just as much potential to be a real threat on offense.
Arians sent Peterson deep three times—he caught a long would-be touchdown pass from Palmer against best friend Mathieu—and once on a crossing route.
That wasn’t it, however.
Peterson started one play in motion from left to right and, as Palmer took the shotgun snap, he handed it off to No. 21. It was the old “Jet Sweep” play.
Only it wasn’t.
He stopped just past Palmer, turned around and ran back to the left, then threw a pass to Larry Fitzgerald, who ended up running an out route. Peterson was the only player with a perfect completion percentage on the day.
He Who Depressed
Ryan Lindley’s Up-and-Down Day
It really is not fun picking on Ryan Lindley so much. But standing out for all the wrong reasons gets you mentioned in sections like this, and Lindley did just that Friday.
The aforementioned interception to Mathieu came on a vastly underthrown deep pass down the right sideline.
There may not be any need for a third quarterback on the roster once the regular season starts, so Lindley’s Cardinals career could soon end. He is just far too inaccurate on even the easiest passes to be worth keeping.
Carson Palmer Report
Palmer was largely sharp throughout the first week of practice.
He and Fitzgerald had dealt with some miscommunication, which led to inaccurate passes.
But Friday started Week 2 of Cards camp, and with it came an extra-sharp Palmer. He was on point all day, and Fitzgerald was the beneficiary more than once. If not for stifling coverage from Peterson on multiple occasions, Fitzgerald would have had more catches from Palmer than he did.
Things are falling into place for the offense. Granted, they have yet to see a live defense in a game situation. But you all remember what the offense looked like the past three seasons.
This offense has been overhauled, and it appears we could see the fruits of Arians system sooner rather than later.
Other News and Notes
—After being blown up by Tyrann Mathieu, receiver Jaron Brown rebounded nicely to provide one of the highlights of Day 7. He made a great leaping touchdown catch on a pass from Drew Stanton. He soared over cornerback Justin Bethel, who looked as though he didn’t even jump on the play.
—Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles had inside linebacker Daryl Washington in the starting lineup Friday. He replaced Karlos Dansby, who missed practice because of a mild hamstring strain, per Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com.
Bowles may use a Tampa-2 defense at times this season—Washington dropped from his ILB spot to cover the deep-third of the field at least once. It makes sense with how athletic he is.
—At one point during practice, right tackle Eric Winston came up limping following a double reverse run by the trio of Palmer, Peterson and Fitzgerald. He did not miss a snap, though, and the limp was unnoticeable after a few plays.
Things like that happen regularly, but with the Seattle Seahawks (Percy Harvin) and San Francisco 49ers (Michael Crabtree) suffering massive blows due to the injury bug, you have to wonder if and when one of these minor injuries will turn tragic for the Cardinals.
—Backup QB Drew Stanton was accurate Friday, hitting on multiple touchdown passes. He leads the second-team offense well enough, and if ever he had to take over for Palmer’s first-team offense, Cardinals fans should be confident there wouldn’t be too much of a drop off. Nothing like going from a mediocre Kevin Kolb to John Skelton/Ryan Lindley, anyway.
—Charles Hawkins has impressed coaches so far, and with injuries to multiple fringe receivers early on, he could squeak onto the roster, per Urban. He stands only 5’8”, but he has made plays nearly every day so far. And that is something the team is in need of, after said injuries: playmakers.
There’s Fitz, then Michael Floyd, then Andre Roberts. After that, it’s as clear as mud. Hawkins has put his name into the hat.