After the anticipated fun for the kids at autograph signing at fan fest at University of Phoenix stadium, the real fun began when practice started. There were some standout performances that are worth mentioning, and of course it’s just one practice, but I wanted to get a first look at some of the new players in action.
Before the practice coach Bruce Arians addressed the crowd of about 12,000, “we’ll try to put on a show, even if we are not in pads” (which will be in a few weeks when camp starts), but coach finished by saying “you’ll get a show because this is a damn good football team.” After the roar of the crowd the practice began.
I instantly start to look for anyone who consistently stood out besides the usual suspects. One thing I did notice was that wide receiver Michael Floyd did not participate in any of the practice on the field, later finding out he was held out as a precaution due to a minor hamstring injury.
The night continued, and I see quarterback Drew Stanton throw a skinny post route to wide receiver Joron Brown on a fabulous throw. What made it so good was Stanton threw this ball on a frozen rope about 25 to 30 yards, and when it reached Brown’s body, I heard this loud thump to his chest. In other words Stanton had some serious heat on that ball.
Other highlights of the night consisted of linebacker Reggie Walker breaking up several passes and getting one interception off a tipped ball in the secondary. Walker was all over the field and very alert where the ball was at all times.
The next player who stood out was Tyrann Mathieu. What really stood out to me first was how small this guy is. I began to wonder, “How is he going to hold up in this league of massive competitors?” But then moments later he began making plays that make one think “are there two of him out there?” One of his plays that really stood out was when quarterback Carson Palmer threw a nice post route intended for the crowd favorite Larry Fitzgerald, it looked as if Fitzgerald would make a routine catch and bring the crowd to its feet.
The crowed roared, but not for Fitzgerald. The safety spot runs in fast and gets his hands on the ball and breaks up the pass in the end zone. Mathieu was very aggressive and literally attack Fitzgerald like bothersome pest. Fitzgerald just simply dropped his head and returned to the huddle. But the crowd turned from cheer of Fitzgerald to ooh’s and wow’s of Mathieu’s defensive play. I get the feeling we will see this style of play as long as Mathieu is on the field.
With the exception of a few incorrect routes, quarterback Carson Palmer seems to have a real good handle on the offense, in regards to demanding where players should be lined up. The young receivers were out of position in some plays and the veteran quarterback would come to them and explained the plays and encouraged them, having never dropped his head in discuss. The sign of a good leader getting his players to follow him, it was really good to see.
Especially after last years camp I saw many times when the quarterback (after a mistake on the route that caused a bad throw) would shake their heads as if to say “that was not my fault, he ran the wrong route” but Palmer at one point, went down the field to his young receiver Kerry Taylor number 18 and put his arm around him and explained the play. Palmer was sharp and still throws one of the best looking spiral passes in the league.
Last but not least Cardinal fans got a glimpse of the maceration of wide receiver LaRon Byrd, and this was the most spectacular play of the night. In the red zone, quarterback Drew Stanton flushed out to the right sideline, and held the ball until the very last second and launched a lob pass to the right back corner of the end zone.
The ball was tipped by the secondary and snatched out of the air aggressively by Byrd. Byrd got both feet down in the back of the end zone and rolled over his head to his feet and stood with his arms extended holding the football. It brought the crowd to its feet. Themost excited person to this play was wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who repeatedly patted Byrd on the back side in excitement, all the way to the huddle. All of the wideouts gave high fives, the crowed continued to be in disbelief of the play and then the practice was over.
It was very exciting to get a small picture of this year’s team, a team in which a lot of fans may not know about. The crowd of 12,000 was a surprise smaller crowd than last years fan fest at about 15,500. Nevertheless, as the word gets out that the team looks like the talent on paper will be matched with performance, I am really looking forward to training camp and I encourage the fans of the valley to come out and support this team. It’s just something about this years team that made me say “maybe we are better than we thought.”
But in the end, only time will tell.