Training Camp: Week One Wrap-Up


The Arizona Cardinals training camp is in full swing now, with players strapped up in full pads and bringing the pain to eachother starting on Monday. So far, there’s been nothing but smiles and pats on the back and all kinds of media love. All good things, but we’ve heard them before. So what’s different this time around? EVERYTHING! There are over 1000 fans attending camp on a daily basis, players like Gabe Watson and Reggie Wells reported to camp leaner and in shape, coaches are seeing the benefit of the off season workouts in the players on the field, it’s all coming together.

What we are seeing here is the beginning, the beginning of something that I feel is really gonna be special. The players, fans, the nfl, everyone is ready for this team to breakout, and the only thing that ever held the Cardinals back were themselves. Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt has stressed that he is going to focus on the details, the fundamentals. In 2006 this team had too many false start penalties (think Leonard Davis), poor conditioning, lack of committment to off-season training, etc. These little things added up during a 17 week season and have been the team’s undoing the last several years. But the offense is looking sharp, the defense is adjusting well to the newly installed 3-4 scheme, and the quality depth is giving a much needed boost to our woeful Special Teams unit.

Here are some quick hits from Week One up in Flagstaff:

1. Whisenhunt getting the most out of his running backs

Both Marcel Shipp and JJ Arrington have been lining up in the backfield during practices…. together. Each has been learning the role of FB and RB as Whisenhunt installs his two back system. Additionally Arrington has been working out of the slot and at reciever as O-Coordinator Todd Haley looks to utilize Arrington’s speed to the fullest. More than likely Whisenhunt will look to use Shipp in a Jerome-Bettis-like role as a short yardage/goalline back.

2. “Lining up to recieve the kickoff it’s Breaston….no wait it’s Johnson….no, who is that…”

Right now the Cards have four players working as the returner on punts/kickoffs: Michael Spurlock, rookie Steve Breaston, JJ Arrington and Bryant Johnson. The surprise here is Johnson, who pretty much has the #3 receiver slot sewn up. Both Spurlock and Breaston are trying to break their way into the receiver rotation as the #4 receiver, but Breaston has to be the favorite to be the team’s return specialist this year, it’s exactly why he was drafted. Arrington’s got the returner experience, but was average for much of the year. Spurlock has good speed and is a big body, but has shown shaky hands at times. More to follow on this saga.

3. Brown still M.I.A from training camp, JUST PAY THE MAN!!

Probably the biggest story for the Cards this preseason so far is the continued holdout of rookie OT Levi Brown. We all know the deal, both sides have agreed on the structure of the contract which would be a 6-year deal, but how much he gets seems to be the issue. What makes this case all the more frustrating is that all the top picks around him such as #3 pick (and O-Lineman) Joe Thomas, #4 pick Gaines Adams & #6 pick Laron Landry have all signed with their teams and are in camp getting schooled now, just like Brown needs to be. Everyday Rod Graves, the Cards GM, comes out and says, “we’re soooo close to signing a deal…..we’re having ‘positive talks’ ” . Look Rod, just pay the man, $42.5 million over six years with a guaranteed $17 million and additional incentives of $1.5 million based on playing time in his rookie campaign. DONE!!

4. CB Hood rolls his ankle in practice, and I cry a little bit inside

No Joke, we need a healthy Rod Hood to hold down that second CB spot along with Antrelle Rolle. It turns out that he only suffered a minor right ankle sprain according to, but this occured during an indoor practice on the same field where Anquan Boldin and Marcel Shipp suffered serious injuries in recent years. The team’s medical staff is keeping a close eye on Hood’s condition, but I’ve got another idea: HOW ABOUT DON’T PRACTICE IN THEIR ANYMORE!! Seriously, I know that inclement weather can force you inside and blah, blah, blah. Can’t you see that building is evil. The building is hurting us, it wants to hurt us. Please don’t let it get us Coach Ken, don’t let it hurt us…….

5. Both Chike and Bertrand happy on the outside looking in…….

The team has been working from the new 3-4 set regularly and both coaches and players are beginning to adjust very well. Newly minted OLBs Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry are showing great speed and movement at their new positions. Both played LB in college, so they already have a solid foundation at the position. Also, Darnell Dockett (converted from DT to DE) and Karlos Dansby (moved from OLB to ILB) have embraced their new positions in the defensive set and are looking to have breakout years.

6. Tight End Position has alot of potential, but not much else

Leonard Pope is the Cardinals first team tight end. Along with him on the roster, the Cards went fishing for some more TEs and landed a few, just none with any real NFL experience. They drafted Ben Patrick in the 7th round, and signed Troy Bienemann in April and Tim Ehus in May. Between these four guys exists, 5 partial seasons of playing time. Pope is a super athlete, but needs to develop into a solid run blocker. All 3 of the Cards other options are trying to battle through injuries, which doesn’t put the team in a great position unless Pope can really step it up this year.

Week two update coming soon. Meanwhile, I’ll keep a watch out for Levi Brown’s contract, it’s gotta be around here somewhere.

Mike Duggan