The valley of the sun is buzzing over the anticipation of the new 2017 NFL season. The official start of training camp for the Arizona Cardinals was Saturday, July 22. Can you smell the beer brats cooking? Or the sudden chill in the air on a late-July summer day? Yes, folks, football season is here!
Last weekend was rocking at University of Phoenix Stadium. Fans from all over the valley (some even from other parts of the country) embraced this most festive period when they could come and watch their favorite team perform in their natural habitat, and on the first day of practice. The Cardinals appear poised for a very successful season run. But, is it in the “cards” for this team to ever win a Super Bowl? It very well could be, and it could very well happen this season.
Arizona Cardinals Training Camp Review
“There’s always going to be expectations,” said linebacker Chandler Jones, earlier last week. “There’s always going to be critics. And there’s always going to be pin marks where you should and shouldn’t be. Our job as a team is to do what we can do and that’s to buy into what the coaches are coaching and control what we can control.”
On Monday, the Cardinals came out in pads. They’re not allowed to tackle each other just yet, but seeing the team actually dressed out in full uniform really gets the blood pumping, especially with the season starting to inch oh, so near. Last week’s practices consisted mainly on conditioning and development, understanding individual roles, timing and chemistry, and running proper routes. Full contact isn’t supposed to start until this upcoming week.
Coach Bruce Arians should be very proud of his team so far. The Cardinals are as geared up as any opponent on the schedule. Just a little more fine-tuning and Arians will have them roaring like a Shelby Cobra V8. Here are the top three takeaways from the 2017 Cardinals training camp.
Top Three Takeaways
#1) The Defense
Under Coach Arians, defense has always been a strong point for the Cardinals. Last season’s accumulation of missed tackles and poorly timed/misjudged routes allowed for at least a handful of tough losses. Of course, lack of depth due to player injuries also played a significant role.
Seeing corner back “Honey Badger” Tyrann Mathieu back out on the practice field is welcoming to say the least. Stepping up in practice so far has been the performances of cornerback Justin Bethel and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. Also stepping up are the newcomers, Safety Budda Baker (Washington) and linebacker Scooby Wright (University of Arizona).
Missed tackles will be the downfall of this very deep and very talented defense. Because the team hasn’t actually been allowed to start tackling until this upcoming week, it’s hard to judge accurately how the team’s performance will translate to the regular season. On the practice field, the defense appears ravenous and they are swarming the football like it could be their last meal (like a focused squad eager to win a championship). We’ll just have to see how this goes.
#2) The West Coast Factor
For the Cardinals, bringing in veteran quarterback Blaine Gabbert (former San Fransisco 49er) has been nothing short of “great” in the ideas department. So far on the practice field, Gabbert has shown he has the ability to complete passes and move his team down the field with efficiency and a professionalism that comes only from years of dedicated hard work.
Of course this is only practice, but he has already moved himself up into the third string position, just behind Drew Stanton. Rookie signal caller Trevor Knight still has some learning to do, but his fundamental skills appear to be right on track. For the record, if anything were to happen to our star quarterback Carson Palmer, Gabbert would get the nod.
Also plucked from the bay area, veteran kicker Phil Dawson has been kicking footballs in the league for the past 19 years. Dawson is second oldest player in the NFL (Adam Vinatieri is the oldest) and the seventh most accurate kicker. Last season’s deficiencies for the Cardinals can almost all be attributed to the poor performance of special teams. Dawson could be the fix the Cardinals are so needing. Watching him kicking field goals out on the practice field, he doesn’t miss.
#3) The Running Game
So far, running back David Johnson is just being David Johnson out on the practice field. Adding some light running routes here and there, he also caught a few passes. The heavier practices start, most likely, next week for the veteran starters of the team, that is with the few practice days still on the table. Preseason games begin next weekend.
The return of Chris Johnson helps exclusively for the team’s running core. It was with the assistance of the Johnson/Johnson tandem that the Cardinals were even in the playoffs in 2015. Questionable is the impact an aging and hobbled star can achieve in the later stages of his career, but Johnson has been known to impress. How he places on the 53 man roster is still unconfirmed. As of today Johnson is behind Kerwynn Williams in the running back line up.
That being said, creating the largest spectacle at training camp for running backs has been the wow-factor performance of T.J. Logan. This kid from North Carolina (drafted in the fifth round, 179th overall) can flat out run, he can return kicks, and he shows the acute ability to block pass rushers. Although it’s only his very first professional practice session, Logan has already proven he will be an amazing talent in the NFL.