First and foremost, Bruce Arians coaches the offense, even though he’s got the whole team to worry about as new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
And that offense was the target of his criticism as the team resumed OTAs on Tuesday.
”We’re just not picking it up fast enough,” he said. ”We’re still not picking it up the way I’d like to – at all positions.”
Arians singled out the receivers.
”I don’t like mistakes. I really don’t like mental mistakes,” Arians said, ”especially if you made the same mistake last week. That should be corrected and in the books by now, and our receivers are not getting that done.”
Even the supremely consistent Larry Fitzgerald dropped a sidelines catch he makes 99 percent or more of the time.
Arians shouldn’t be too surprised about the offense’s struggles. After all, he inherits a team that ranked dead last in the NFL on offense last season, bringing an end to Ken Whisenhunt’s days as head coach.
Arians and new general manager Steve Keim have overseen a massive roster overhaul, most notably bringing in Carson Palmer as quarterback. He also brought in running back Rashard Mendenhall and drafted North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper with the seventh overall pick, already sliding him in at left guard and moving veteran guard Daryn Colledge to the right side.
He also has a beefed up coaching staff, with 21 coaches, up from Whisenhunt’s 17.
That’s allowed Arians to divide the OTAs into two 45-man groups to go through workouts simultaneously.
”I’ve always thought that small classrooms make for better success in teaching,” he said. ”The more eyes on the linemen especially, the offensive linemen and outside backers and tight ends, the more hands-on coaches the better improvement of the player, on the field and in the classroom.”
Running back Ryan Williams, whose two NFL seasons have been decimated by injuries, offered a candid assessment of Arians’ approach, particularly when it comes to discipline.
”Everybody’s accountable, that’s the No. 1 thing,” he said. ”It’s a respect thing. We used to have egotistical guys who felt like they couldn’t be touched and be able to do whatever they wanted to. So having guys like coach Bruce is able to nip that ASAP and we’re able to have a good, quality practice and sometimes that wasn’t able to happen because some guys were just doing whatever they wanted to do.”
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is thrilled with the coaching change and the move to a defensive system that allows him to make more plays rather than simply take on blockers to clear the way for linebackers to get the glory.
”This is one of the most energetic head coaches I’ve ever been around, and I’m not just saying that,” Dockett said. ”He’s very intense on everything and he’s straightforward, too.”
He talked about liking to heckle Palmer from the other side of the ball, but he called the new quarterback ”a great leader for us.”
”I see him sometimes on the sideline, coaching the receivers and talking to the offensive line,” Dockett said. ”What a big difference from that position last year. Right now I think he’s more respected and a lot of guys are willing to go that extra yard for him. He’s a tough quarterback and he’s going to hang in there for us.”
NOTES: Arians said tight end Jeff King underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and hopes to begin working out in the next set of OTAs in two weeks. … The OTA sessions Wednesday and Thursday are closed to the media. … Arizona signed rookie free agent WR Charles Hawkins from Southern and waived-injured WR Javone Lawson (Achilles). Stump Mitchell, Hawkins’ head coach at Southern, is the Cardinals’ running backs coach.