Cardinals' first game-like setting of camp will offer opportunity (a brief one) for early evaluation.
By CRAIG MORGANFS Arizona
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The
Cardinals will host their annual Red and White practice Saturday from 11:30 a.m.-1:20 p.m. at the upper fields across from Northern Arizona University’s Walkup Skydome.
Here are some important details for fans planning to attend. As for the practice itself, it will feature a series of game-like drives, complete with play calling, with the offense going against the defense.
The Cardinals do a fair amount of this during regular practices, but the intensity will be ratcheted up a bit with a large crowd expected and a day off the following day, so it’s a chance -- albeit a limited one -- to do some evaluation.
Here are 10 things to watch:
1. The quarterback battle (duh): The starter won’t be announced after today, but the drives will provide a glimpse into how well Kevin Kolb and John Skelton have mastered the offense. Will they get rid of the ball in a timely fashion? Will Kolb stay patient with plays? How will Skelton’s progressions look? Can they connect on the big plays? Those sorts of things ...
2. The cornerback battle opposite Patrick Peterson: William Gay is currently running with the first unit, but Greg Toler (coming back from an ACL tear last season), rookie Jamell Fleming, A.J. Jefferson and even Michael Adams (the current nickelback) also are in the mix. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton said Friday he has an idea of what his depth chart looks like but still wants to see more to solidify it.
3. Running back Ryan Williams: With Beanie Wells still on the active PUP (physically unable to perform) list, Williams could get a chance to show off his dynamic play-making ability and those jaw-dropping cutbacks -- depending how much the Cards want to push him as he comes back from a knee injury that sidelined him for all of 2011. He took Friday afternoon off. Maybe it was with this practice partially in mind.
4. The right tackle battle: Offensive line coach Russ Grimm said rookie Bobby Massie will compete with Jeremy Bridges for the starting spot. Saturday will provide an early read on whether that’s wishful thinking or a real possibility.
5. The outside linebackers: As
was detailed Friday, the Cards are counting on youngsters Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield to provide a key missing ingredient from last year’s defense: a consistent pass rush from the edge.
6. Stewart Bradley: He took a 50 percent pay cut this season after failing to unseat starting inside linebacker Paris Lenon last season. Like Kolb, Bradley has had an offseason to grasp the defense and learn to call plays. Will he finally emerge?
7. Tight ends Todd Heap and Rob Housler: Heap struggled through injuries last season; Housler struggled with blocking schemes and a full grasp of the offense. Both could help the passing game enormously if they can overcome those aforementioned obstacles.
8. Rookie receiver Michael Floyd: Floyd’s strengths are his size and his ability to both track and then go up and get the ball. His weakness is that he’s still a rookie. There is much to learn.
9. Nose tackle Dan Williams: His weight is down, his conditioning is good and he’s going to start this season. Williams is the key to the 3-4. If he can be the block-eating, space-eating force the Cards think he can, he’ll make everyone around him better and free up the playmakers to do what they do best.
10. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald: He does something ridiculously athletic every day. Watching Fitz is like watching a performing art.