NFC West: Arizona Cardinals
- As head coach Bruce Arians said earlier Friday, Max Starks was getting reps with the second team at right tackle. Nate Potter was on the left side. Give Starks a couple of weeks to get back into football shape and he could be giving Bobby Massie a serious push at right tackle. The move was smart from a variety of standpoints. It’ll provide Arizona with more depth on the line, since Starks can play both the left and right side and he’ll be pushing Massie for the foreseeable future. If Massie cracks, Arians will have a veteran option to replace him with instead of going the route of a young, inexperienced tackle.
- The Cardinals spent a majority of their 11-on-11 segments working out of the shadows of their goalposts. Last season, quarterback Carson Palmer struggled from inside Arizona’s 20, throwing four interceptions compared to one touchdown. He was also sacked nine times inside the Cards’ 20 -- tied for fourth most in the league. Adding speed to the receiving corps makes a home run pass from that part of the field a better option when compared to last season. In 2013, Arizona was working on deep passes on the sideline in that situation.
- Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett did not practice Friday. He watched from the sideline in shorts and a jersey.
- With Danny Hrapmann being released before Friday’s practice, the competition is down to incumbent starter Jay Feely and rookie Chandler Catanzaro. Feely made five of six field goals Friday, missing a 45 yarder. Catanzaro went 4-for-6, missing from 43 and 46.
- Backup quarterback Drew Stanton saw the good and bad of passes gone awry. One of his passes toward the end of practice bounced off the chest of tight end Rob Housler and into the hands of Curtis Taylor. Later, a Stanton pass was nearly picked off by Kenny Demens, but it bounced off his hands and was caught by Jaron Brown for a touchdown.
- CB Patrick Peterson intercepted Palmer during 7-on-7 drills. … DE Frostee Rucker saw more snaps with the first team in place of Dockett. … LB Larry Foote lined up out wide in coverage on one play across from RB Andre Ellington but Ellington didn’t get targeted by Palmer. … Midway through practice DT Amp McCloud rushed Stanton and appeared to accidently knock the ball out of Stanton’s hands. Arians immediately tossed McCloud from the play. He returned later.
"Last year, we were not sold we had a right tackle," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "Right now, I feel very confident in (right tackle) Bobby (Massie). He's having a great camp. This is more of a swing. Eric could not swing. He's a right tackle only. Max has played left for a long time and he started out at right. It's just quality depth for us."
Starks will enter camp working with the second team, Arians said, backing up Massie at right tackle and Jared Veldheer on the left side. Even though he hasn't played since Week 4 of last season and missed the first week of training camp, Starks' said the transition is easier with the Cardinals because of his history with Arians.
Starks played in Pittsburgh during Arians' entire tenure with the Steelers. He'll also reunite with Cardinals' offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, who were the Steelers' offensive assistant and offensive line coach, respectively, during part of Starks' Pittsburgh career.
"All the terminology seems to be the old terminology, so it's starting to click again," Starks said. "Obviously it's been two years since I was with BA so just getting used to that lingo and getting that going. But all the play calling is very similar to what I was used to in Pittsburgh."
Starks was the Cardinals' first roster move of training camp. Arians wanted to add enough depth to avoid any visible seams if an injury were to occur. But the addition of Starks is a statement on the Cards' backups, in particular Bradley Sowell.
Arians said Friday that Sowell isn't playing "as well as he should" and that the experience Starks brings is more valuable than a rookie.
"You want to give young players all the benefit of the doubt," Arians said. "But once you know they can't help you, it's time to build the depth in your roster."
When the conversations turned to what Lawrence's son Aeneas did for a living, Lawrence would tell them Aeneas played cornerback in the NFL. It wouldn't take long for the natural follow-up question: "How good was he?"
Before this past February, Lawrence had plenty to boast about. Aeneas played for 14 years for the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro who had 55 interceptions and started in a Super Bowl.
Lawrence's answer changed the day before the Super Bowl in New York when Aeneas was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"That kind of ends the discussion as it relates to a whole lot of debate as to how good your son is," Aeneas remembers his dad saying.
On Saturday, Aeneas will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Presenting him isn't just a man who shouldn't have to answer any more questions about his son but a man who built the foundation from which Aeneas grew. Lawrence was the first and only of nine siblings to attend and graduate from college. When Aeneas graduated from high school, his family applauded. Going to college was a given. Graduating from school was expected.
His upbringing kept Aeneas humble, and it carried him throughout his career. He'll first listen to his father, which befits Aeneas. He's never let his words do the talking. But after Lawrence boasts and brags as only a proud father can, it'll be Aeneas' turn.
Aeneas Williams' speech has been written for some time, but he's cried while rehearsing it. Although speaking in front of a crowd is old hat for the pastor of The Spirit Church in St. Louis, this is different. This is the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Still, this may be the easiest speech of Williams' life.
"It won't be hard because I won't be telling someone else's story," Williams said. "The great credible speech ... comes from the credibility of the one speaking, so it won't be hard. It won't be hard for me to share the truth as to how fearful I was."
Williams will tell stories. He will tell the one about how he proved his college coach wrong when going from a 4.6-second 40-yard dash to running a 4.28. And about how then-Cardinals defensive backs coach Rob Ryan hugged Williams and promised him he would lead the league in interceptions. And, of course, how he continued to work throughout his career to prove himself.
"It's pretty easy to tell those stories because I want people to not stand up there and think I was just like this guy that was predicted to do it," Williams said. "I wasn't, and I want to tell people why and what [and] how significant the mentors were, how significant it was."
The stories that might not be told are how Williams became a mentor himself.
Unlike Williams, Kwamie Lassiter wasn't drafted into the NFL, but the two shared a goal of being a professional defensive back. Williams worked with Lassiter during his early years with the Cardinals. He taught Lassiter how to watch film, how to study it, how to implement what he learned. He showed Lassiter how to play with a calm mind, which Lassiter credits as one of the Williams' most important lessons. Another was teaching Lassiter that the game is bigger than any individual.
"It was somewhat shocking," said Lassiter, who played with Williams in St. Louis. "But when I found out who he was as a man, and not a cornerback or athlete, I can understand why he went about this business the ways he did, why he says the thing he did.
"It was shocking."
The NFC West had three teams that won at least 10 games last season, two teams in the NFC Championship Game and a team that won the Super Bowl by 35 points.
Consequently, there is no lack of confidence about the 2014 season for the teams in this division. Three of them -- the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals -- can make a legitimate argument for winning the division title.
But until the 49ers or the Cardinals prove otherwise, the Seahawks are the clear favorites, not only to win the division crown but to return to the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks, however, realize the biggest obstacle to repeating as Super Bowl winners lies within their own division. The NFC West is widely regarded as the best division in the NFL. It's also the most physical division in the league, which means the division rivals tend to beat up on each other.
Here's how Seahawks reporter Terry Blount, St. Louis Rams reporter Nick Wagoner, Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and 49ers reporter Bill Williamson see each team finishing in 2014:
What will the 49ers' record be and why?
Terry Blount: 12-4. The 49ers have a shiny new stadium, which I see them taking full advantage of and probably going unbeaten at home. Their home game against the Seahawks comes on Thanksgiving night, which likely will be a frenzied holiday crowd in front of a national TV audience. However, I don't see things going quite as smoothly on the road. I have the 49ers losing at Arizona, Denver, New Orleans and Seattle. The key for San Francisco is how the team performs in a five-game midseason stretch that includes four road games -- St. Louis, Denver, New Orleans and the New York Giants. The 49ers do have a bye week in that stretch, but how they get through the middle part of the schedule will determine their fate.
Josh Weinfuss: 10-6. This may be a bit on the nice side, considering the run of injuries to running backs since training camp started, but I think the 49ers' passing game and Colin Kaepernick's feet will make up for at least one game they'll lose because of a depleted running game. San Francisco plays a brutal schedule, facing the Cowboys, Bears, Cardinals, Eagles and Chiefs in its first five games. I don't think the road will be kind to the Niners this year, especially in the NFC West. The magic is running out for Jim Harbaugh one injury at a time.
Bill Williamson: I'm going to say the 49ers will be 12-4. They are a top team. But it's difficult to predict any team finishing higher than 12-4, although it wouldn't shock me if San Francisco finished with a better record. As long as quarterback Colin Kaepernick stays healthy, and there are no more big injuries on defense, San Francisco will win its share of games. It is a very deep and well-coached team. It knows how to win consistently. I fully expect San Francisco to start hot and stay hot.
@BWilliamsonESPN 13-3. most loaded O since glory days. Great D. Very friendly final 6 weeks of schedule.— Corey Mayne (@CDM49er) July 22, 2014
What will the Cardinals' record be and why?
Blount: 11-5. Yes, by picking the Cardinals to win 11 games, it means I'm picking the highly unusual occurrence of three teams in one division winning 11 or more games. But I believe the NFC West is that good. Arizona won 10 games last season. The offense should be better this season with quarterback Carson Palmer having a full year in the system and an improved offensive line. I actually thought this team could move ahead of the 49ers this year, but losing inside linebackers Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington is a huge blow to the defense. The biggest problem for Arizona is ending the regular season with back-to-back games against Seattle and at San Francisco. The Cardinals also have to play Seattle twice in their last six games. They will need to split those two games, and probably win on the road at Atlanta and St. Louis down the stretch, to reach the 11-win plateau.
Weinfuss: 10-6. There's a lot that can go right for Arizona this year, but there's a lot that can go wrong. I think the Cardinals will start hot -- building on last season's success -- and win five of their first six. I wouldn't be surprised if they continue to tear through, but their schedule is backloaded. By midseason, offenses will figure out how to exploit the middle of the defense, which was decimated by the losses of Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington. But Arizona's offense should be potent enough to make up for any issues on defense, which will be few and far between, and simply outscore opponents.
Williamson: I'm going with 10-6. The Cardinals had 10 wins last season and may be better in their second season under coach Bruce Arians. But I still don't think Arizona is an elite team. Saying this team will take the next step and get to 12-4 is a bit of a stretch for me, although I love the Cardinals' defense. I think Carson Palmer is a solid fit for this team. But he's still Carson Palmer. He will still ruin a few games with some untimely interceptions. Arizona is good, not great, and a 10-6 record is a solid showing by a good team.
What will the Rams' record be and why?
Blount: 6-10. This is my real shocker pick of the bunch because I'm sure most people see the Rams as a much better team than 6-10. St. Louis has an outstanding young defense, but the problem for the Rams is they play in the NFC West. Going through the division games, I don't see St. Louis doing better than 1-5. If the Rams can go 3-3 in the division, 8-8 or better is a possibility. But St. Louis just isn't on the same tier as the other three teams in the NFC West, not yet anyway. Maybe once the Rams move back to Los Angeles that will change. OK, I'm having a little futuristic fun there.
Wagoner: 8-8. This is the season the Rams have targeted for a breakthrough since coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead took over in 2012. They've gone through a massive roster makeover in that time and have built this team into one that is bursting with potential, but still lacking in production. This is the season the Rams hope upside makes the transition to something more tangible, namely more wins. But it's still hard to see this team making the leap this particular year against an imposing schedule and the league's toughest division. Quarterback Sam Bradford returns from a knee injury, which should help but to what extent remains to be seen. The defensive line is probably the best and deepest in the NFL, and with Gregg Williams at coordinator, the defense should be able to keep the Rams in games. Once again, the onus to get the Rams to the next level falls on the offense. Beyond Bradford, the Rams have a talented offensive line but one that is dotted with injury questions at nearly every position. They should be able to run the ball effectively, but at some point the passing game will have to do its part. The receivers and tight ends won't be asked to carry too much freight, but that mostly young group has to be better and more consistent for the Rams to have success. Fisher has a history of getting teams to right at or around the .500 mark, as he's done his first two seasons in St. Louis. There is enough talent in place for this team to take the next step, but until we see it actually coalesce, it's hard to predict more than mediocrity.
Williamson: I'm saying 7-9. Look, the Rams' defense -- especially the defensive line -- is nasty good. St. Louis will win games on defense. But I worry about the offense. Yes, the Rams went 7-9 in 2013 with quarterback Sam Bradford hurt for much of the season. So, a healthy Bradford could make a difference. But I just don't see Bradford as a major difference-maker, anyway. Plus, the truth is, the Rams are the worst team in a very strong division. It is going to be tough piling up wins in the NFC West, and the Rams could suffer.
@nwagoner My heart wants to say 10-6.. But my brain tells me 8-8. Those games after the early bye week are going to be brutal.— John (@The_Tiki_Garden) July 21, 2014
What will the Seahawks' record be and why?
Blount: 13-3. It's been a while since any NFL team was coming off a Super Bowl and could realistically say it might be in better position to win it all now than they were a season ago, but that's the case for the Seahawks. This still is a young and deeply talented team that probably hasn't peaked yet. The receiving corps will be better this season with a healthy Percy Harvin, and the sky is the limit for quarterback Russell Wilson, who is starting only his third NFL season. The final seven games are as difficult as I've ever seen for a defending Super Bowl champ. Seattle closes with five NFC West games in the final seven, including two against the 49ers and two with the Cardinals. The Seahawks also have road games at Kansas City and Philadelphia in that stretch. How they close it out will determine whether they win the division title, and it's almost mandatory if they hope to get back to the Super Bowl.
Wagoner: 12-4. On paper, the defending champions remain the class of the division. They handled their business in the offseason, prioritizing their own and keeping the ones they deemed most important. The defense should be dominant again with most of the key pieces returning and the Legion of Boom largely intact. Offensively, it's probably safe to assume quarterback Russell Wilson will continue to get better and the passing game to expand. Marshawn Lynch still has plenty in the tank and the Seahawks have some good young alternatives behind him. Seattle was able to get it done without Percy Harvin for almost all of last season, but with Golden Tate gone to Detroit, the Seahawks will need Harvin to be available and contribute consistently. The team's biggest weakness, the offensive line, will need to be better and could be with some improved health, but the Seahawks got it done behind a similar line in 2013. As with any team, injuries could severely hamper Seattle's run, especially after it lost some of its better depth players in the offseason. But all things considered, this was one of the youngest teams in the league a year ago and went on to win the Super Bowl. There's little reason to think that talent will regress with the experience and confidence that comes from the run it made in 2013.
Williamson: I'm going with 12-4. Would I be surprised if the Seahawks went 14-2? No, but a 12-4 season is a great effort and I will start there, much like the 49ers. The Seahawks could easily go 8-0, or stumble once, at most, in the first half of the season. But Seattle isn't a great road team. It can be beaten on the road, especially by teams such as the 49ers, Panthers, Chargers, Chiefs, Panthers, Eagles and Cardinals. My guess is the Seahawks go 7-1 at home and 5-3 on the road.
@TerryBlountESPN 12-4. Tough schedule and early bye, but this team wont cave to pressure or think of last year. All in...again.— Vaughn Kness (@metalvx5) July 22, 2014
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There wasn't much Patrick Peterson wasn't proud of Wednesday as he discussed his record-setting $70 million extension.
He was especially pleased with his ability to keep media in the dark on how close he and the Arizona Cardinals were to striking a deal.
"I'm definitely happy that this is over with. This is definitely a relief," Peterson said. "I kept a pretty [good] poker face with you guys the last couple weeks."
Peterson said the negotiations were on his mind as the Cardinals reported Friday for the start of training camp. It was hard for him to forget about it, however. Questions about an extension were constant whenever Peterson met with the media at camp but Peterson stuck to his message: He had two years left on his deal and if an extension didn't get done, so be it, he would still focus on football.
"That's exactly who he is," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "We were working hard behind the scenes. He's a football player. He controls football. Let the business people control the business. You would never have noticed it was even an issue in the last three weeks."
That's how Peterson wanted it.
He was adamant about his looming extension becoming a focal point or a distraction in the locker room during camp. Arians was hoping a deal would get done before the regular season began, but if it didn't Arians would've marched on, answering the questions.
Peterson and his coach were relieved when a deal was struck.
"It obviously gets rid of a potential distraction media wise," Arians said. "Never been a distraction for Patrick on the field or us in the locker room."
During the past few weeks, significant progress was being made. But, reportedly, there were still significant holdups as recently as the past 48 hours. Both sides -- the Cardinals and Peterson's agents -- handled each "obstacle," as general manager Steve Keim called them, as it came. By Tuesday night, all the obstacles were taken care of, and a negotiation that began when the 2013 season ended was finished.
"As we got closer, I got more and more excited about it," Keim said.
When asked if he wanted to get the deal done before the season, Keim said there were peaks and valleys. Peterson told USA Today this week that if a deal wasn't done by Week 1, negotiations would have been tabled until after the season. He knew at the time that an extension was imminent but Peterson also had seen how long it took to get this far, so nothing was over until it was over.
"When you do a deal of this magnitude it takes some time," he added. "And there were always issues that we had to address but I know this: At the end of the day, both sides feel extremely excited about the deal."
- Justin Bethel's ascent up the depth chart continued Wednesday. With Antonio Cromartie out with a pectoral injury, Bethel was part of the Cardinals' nickel and dime packages. He played wide corner in both schemes, with Jerraud Powers playing nickel back. In base, Powers has filled in for Cromartie at corner opposite Patrick Peterson. Bethel had an interception late in practice and showed his speed weaving between offense players. Bethel might have made the most improvement among his teammates this offseason and it should pay off with more opportunities to earn playing time.
- Even though he’s dealing with a calf injury and didn’t dress for practice, Lyle Sendlein played center for Carson Palmer during 7-on-7 drills. The more Sendlein can continue to work with Palmer during non-contact drills, the more they can keep up the connection they’ve developed over the past year.
- During an early drill, Bruce Arians called over Peterson and discussed arm and hand placement during press coverage. Even though Peterson just signed a $70 million extension, he’s not immune from a little coaching.
- Anthony McCloud played nose tackle with the first team during most of Wednesday’s practice. Dan Williams is expected to return Friday, when the Cardinals practice next.
- All of Arizona’s tight ends have looked good during camp thus far. Rookie Troy Niklas, still playing with a soft cast on his right hand, made an impressive catch for a touchdown through three defensive backs.
- The kicking battle continued, with incumbent starter Jay Feely making all eight of his kicks. By my count, Danny Hrapmann made three-of-four.
- LB Ernie Sims didn't practice Wednesday. Neither did RB Damien Thigpen.
So, when Lyle Sendlein went down early in Monday’s Arizona Cardinals practice with a calf injury, it was expected that Palmer would need time to adjust to his new center, Ted Larsen. Palmer fumbled their first snap, but after that, Palmer found Larsen’s sweet spot and their snaps were seamless for the rest of practice.
Sendlein is expected to miss the next three weeks, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday morning. He’s aiming to have Sendlein, an eight-year veteran who went undrafted out of Texas, back for the third or fourth preseason game. That will give Sendlein and Palmer a chance to rekindle their routine.
“Lyle’s as integral a part of this offense as anybody is,” Palmer said. “He’s very, very underrated. (He’s) been a very good player for a long time. Really, really smart, very poised. Helps everybody out around him. So, when you lose that guy, it’s obviously a blow, but it’s a great opportunity.”
For the next few weeks, Larsen will be in charge of dictating protections and making sure there’s a smooth exchange at center. Until Monday, when Larsen replaced Sendlein, he practiced as a backup guard and occasionally at center. Larsen has started 31 of 60 career games, but playing with the first team this week has been a reminder of how competitive the first team is.
“It’s a lot more competition,” Larsen said. “It’s the ones, so it’s fast.”
Palmer said Larsen’s camp experience will benefit 27-year-old, especially after Sendlein returns. Larsen isn’t expected to be a starter this year, but he’ll likely be kept on the roster as the backup swing guard and center.
“I think when Lyle does get back, it’ll make him a better guard just having that experience at center,” Palmer said. “Making the calls, being the guy that everybody’s listening to and then when you go back to guard, you’re probably making the same calls at the same time Lyle is just because of the experience he has there.”
It will be tough for Palmer and Larsen to recreate the chemistry that Palmer shares with Sendlein, but Palmer isn’t concerned about Sendlein falling behind during the most important time of camp. If adjustments are made to blocking schemes or the offense, Sendlein has been absorbing those from the sideline.
Having a few weeks off from camp while still being engaged mentally is a good thing for Sendlein, Arians said.
“He’s a veteran. He knows what he’s doing,” Arians said. “It’s a blessing in a lot of ways. He stays healthier and some young guys get a lot of good reps.”
There are a few things in life worth paying for: shoes, pillows and haircuts.
In football, a young, talented, charismatic lockdown cornerback might just be near the top of that list. The Arizona Cardinals showed Patrick Peterson how much they thought he was worth Tuesday night. Peterson tweeted that he and the Cardinals had agreed on a five-year contract extension worth $70 million that includes $48 million guaranteed.
In Peterson, the Cardinals have the player they can build a franchise around for the foreseeable future.
With the NFL primarily a passing league, having a cornerback who has shutdown capabilities and isn't afraid of an offense's primary target each week is worth his weight in dollars -- millions of them. According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson covered an offense's No. 1 receiver 55 percent of the time. He may have allowed more completions and touchdowns than Arizona would've liked, but when Peterson's responsible for the top pass-catcher on the field at all times, his job is harder than it is for the average defensive back.
Peterson's versatility helped establish his name. He was one of the league's top punt returners before he was battling Richard Sherman on Twitter for cornerback supremacy. His four touchdown returns as a rookie tied an NFL record. Last season, he added offense to his repertoire.
Then there's the fact he's an athletic freak. He's big enough to jam and press at the line of scrimmage, but he's fast enough to turn and run. And he can jump, too. On the field, there was no doubt Peterson was worth the money Cardinals president Michael Bidwill spent to keep him home.
Imagine Peterson on the open market. Arizona wouldn't have been able to compete if teams in the league's premier markets started bidding for his talents.
But there's more to Peterson becoming the cornerstone of an organization than his performance on the field. For the past 11 years, the Cardinals have watched Larry Fitzgerald become the face of the franchise. He was a young star like Peterson, but by the time Fitzgerald turned 24 -- which is how old Peterson is today -- his resume wasn't comparable. Fitzgerald had made one Pro Bowl but wasn't an All-Pro by his 24th birthday. And he evolved into the respected figure he is today in his mid-20s.
Peterson, who turned 24 on July 11, has the football resume and personality to take the reins from Fitzgerald as the face of the Cardinals. And clearly the team's front office sees that. Peterson has become a voice in the locker room, a leader whose maturity speaks for itself. On Tuesday, he spoke about the John Abraham situation with the poise of a seasoned veteran. For a man who was married at age 22, it's fitting that he's been described as old soul.
For a family-run franchise such as the Cardinals, paying Peterson was an investment in their future. But even Arizona realized it is time to protect its money. As negotiations between the Cardinals and Peterson's team heated up behind the scenes this week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians announced Peterson's days as an offensive weapon were over and his punt returns would be limited. There was too much risk involved for $70 million.
But the largest cornerback contract ever doesn't mean he's the best cornerback ever. There's still work to be done. He gets beat more than he should. He relies on his athleticism and speed over fundamentals more than he should. He could study more and get his hands on more balls, Arians has said.
Peterson doesn't seem to be the type of man who'll take his foot off the pedal because he got paid. He'll tell you himself that he's a football junkie.
Even though he spent most of the summer unsure when a deal would get done, Peterson knew one thing: He was worth more than Richard Sherman, who for a short time had the richest cornerback contract in history.
Now, the Cardinals know it, too.
• He’s been one of the talks of camp, but Michael Floyd put his offseason improvement on display Tuesday. On one pass, Floyd got a step behind cornerback Patrick Peterson for a touchdown that sailed in just beyond Peterson’s reach. Floyd then hauled in another score over cornerback Justin Bethel. Earlier Tuesday, quarterback Carson Palmer praised Floyd’s size and his ability to overpower cornerbacks, which was the case Tuesday. Bethel is listed as 6-0 and Peterson 6-1, but Floyd played taller and bigger than the 6-2, 220 pounds he’s listed as.
• Arizona got a look at a few backups that were called upon in a pinch. With RB Andre Ellington (neck) and CB Antonio Cromartie (pectoral) out Tuesday, RB Stepfan Taylor and CB Jerraud Powers were inserted into their respective first-team spots. NT Christian Tupou (groin), who was already replacing Dan Williams, was replaced by a combination of players, including Anthony McCloud.
≺ Taylor filling in for Ellington was telling in terms of the battle for the second running back job. It’s between Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer, but with head coach Bruce Arians’ decision to run Taylor with the starters, it appears that he’s leading the backup running back race. The importance of winning the second spot this year is greater than past years because of Arians’ decision to use more two-back sets.
• Arians got what he wanted when it came to adding speed to the offense. On at least two occasions, Ted Ginn and John Brown had to slow down to haul in a Carson Palmer pass. That speed could be a blessing and a curse. Last season, Palmer had a knack for slightly underthrowing receivers, forcing them to come back for passes. Ginn and Brown will have to learn how to time their runs perfectly with Palmer’s passes.
• Rookie safety Deone Bucannon secured an interception that got the crowd riled up.
• Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who Arians praised Tuesday morning for being perfect through camp, missed three kicks in row during the afternoon practice. The three he missed were end-over-end kicks, different from his regular kicks. By my count, Catanzaro went 7-for-10, missing field goals from 41, 47 and 48 yards.
• After Catanzaro came off the field, special teams coordinator Amos Jones pulled his young kicker off to the side for a short talk near a water cooler. By Catanzaro’s body language, it was clear he wasn’t happy with himself.
- Another day, another injury. This time it was starting center Lyle Sendlein who was missing for the majority of practice. He suffered a left calf injury and was replaced by veteran offensive lineman Ted Larsen. Sendlein has been durable, missing just five games since his rookie season. Larsen is in his fifth season. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will address Sendlein's injury Tuesday morning when he meets the media.
- One of the most asked questions leading into the first day with pads was whether or not John Brown would be as fast with pads on as he is without them? He answered that quickly, connecting with Drew Stanton for an 82-yard touchdown pass in which he outran safeties Rashad Johnson and Curtis Taylor.
- A day after announcing he wasn't playing offense anymore, cornerback Patrick Peterson began Monday's practice going through foot drills with the quarterbacks and running short goal line routes during their warm-ups.
- One of the lighter moments of practice came when punter Dave Zastudil hit tackle Kelvin Palmer for a touchdown pass on a fake field goal. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Palmer went airborne for the pass over a defender and came down for the score.
- As the kicking competition continues, Jay Feely went 4-for-5 on Monday, making two kicks from 48 yards, and a kick from 45 and 46 while missing a 33-yarder. Danny Hrapmann made kicks from 33, 45 and 46 while missing a 48-yarder.
Whether the Cardinals' second-year defensive tackle feels like the attention is warranted or not, he was thrown into the spotlight when starting nose tackle Dan Williams left Sunday's practice with a swollen left knee. Williams is expected to miss Monday, as well, and with Alameda Ta'amu on the physically unable to perform list while he rehabs his repaired right knee, Tupou has been thrust onto the first team as its nose tackle.
So far through camp, Tupou's best has been good enough.
But Tupou needs to put the humility aside for a few days. At stake is a spot on a 53-man roster. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said the opportunity to get reps with the first team allows Tupou to display what he can do.
"He's shown very well so far," Arians said. "That's another guy we want to see in pads. He's shown up. He's got everybody's attention."
It's been a long-time coming. Tupou was signed by the Chicago Bears out of Southern California as a free agent in 2013. He spent time in Chicago's training camp and on its practice squad before he was elevated to the 53-man roster last November. He spent about a month-and-a-half there and played five games, notching three tackles.
He spent the postseason and offseason bouncing around the league from Indianapolis to San Francisco to Arizona on May 16.
Tupou is just humbled to be in an NFL camp. He downplayed the opportunity he's been given and even thought he shouldn't even be talking to the media. And he's trying not to be starstruck when he looks to his right and sees Darnell Dockett in a three-point stance and Calais Campbell to his left.
"That's not what the game is about," Tupou said. "I'm just focused about being assignment perfect, doing my best."
"We were very fortunate yesterday," Arians said. "We were way too active to be in shorts. I was holding my breath a little bit yesterday, but it was an outstanding practice."
• Arians said nose tackle Dan Williams will have an MRI on his swollen left knee. Williams is expected to miss Monday afternoon's practice.
• With pads being donned Monday, Arians won't limit how much his players hit. "With the limited time you can hit now, you can't hit enough, in my opinion."
• Arians said he hopes to keep four tight ends, but the rotation will be "more tailored to what they do best."
• Arians won't "baby" tight end John Carlson because of his history of concussions.
• When it comes to using fullbacks, Arians would rather use a versatile tight end than a true fullback because defenses can't prepare for a tight end that can play both positions as well as they can for a fullback.
• Quarterback Logan Thomas will get more snaps than Ryan Lindley in practice because he's newer, Arians said.
• Arians isn't a fan of training camp fights. He'd rather buy his players boxing gloves -- like Bear Bryant used to -- than see them break their hands. But Arians said he won't fine players for fights, he'll just "cut them."
Seattle’s Richard Sherman signed a four-year $57.4 million extension on May 7 and Cleveland’s Joe Haden received a five-year $68 million extension about a week later. Peterson is scheduled to earn about $2.9 million this year and $10 million next season.
The three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro said he’ll leave the negotiations to his agent, Joel Segal, and the Cardinals’ brain trust.
“I’m here to play football,” Peterson said. “I’ve got two years left on my deal and I want to do the best I can to help this team win. I haven’t been to the playoffs since I’ve been here. That’s my first goal. That’s what I’m focusing on right now, just football, and we’ll see what the contract stuff, if it happens, it happens.
“If it don’t, I have to continue playing football.”
- Nose tackle Dan Williams was conspicuously absent for the majority of Arizona’s practice Sunday. According to reports, he left practice with a swollen left knee. There’s no word on how serious the injury is. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians addresses the media Monday morning. In his place, however, Christian Tupou took snaps with the first team. Depending on the seriousness of Williams’ knee, Tupou could be Arizona's primary nose tackle because Alameda Ta’amu is also out while rehabbing a torn ACL.
- While working on a side drill, running back Robert Hughes took snaps as a fullback -- the same position Arians said he doesn’t like using. Hughes, who signed with the Cardinals in the offseason after two years in Indianapolis, including one with Arians, is a strong possibility to be the Cards’ fourth back.
- The coaching staff got a good look at Jaron Brown Sunday when he took three straight passes from backup quarterback Drew Stanton. He's part of five players competing for the fourth wide receiver job.
- Without Jake Ballard at practice because of a thigh bruise, Rob Housler was working with the first team. It’s opportunities like these that Housler needs to prove himself after a disappointing 2013.
- Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson have been the Cardinals’ first-team safeties.
- When Arizona played its dime defense, nickel back Jerraud Powers and rookie safety Deone Bucannon joined the starting secondary of Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Jefferson and Johnson. Often in dime Sunday, Arizona wouldn’t use a nose tackle, opting for two down linemen and two outside linebackers, with just one linebacker, Larry Foote. Bucannon would start the play lined up next to Foote and, if needed, he’d drop back or out wide into coverage.
- For the majority of practice, Arizona played two outside linebacker pairs. Matt Shaughnessy, playing in place of the absent John Abraham, played with Sam Acho, while Alex Okafor and Kareem Martin were usually on the field together.
- Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is playing with the second team.
- Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro made all five of his attempts Sunday from 33, 40, 45, 46 and 47 yards.
Right tackle Bobby Massie and right guard Paul Fanaika separated themselves enough from their competition during organized team activities and minicamp to begin camp working with the first-team offense. It's both their jobs to lose, Arians said Sunday, but neither spot is guaranteed with Arizona donning pads for the first time in camp on Monday.
"We're not going to shuffle a lot anymore," Arians added. "We've had plenty of time to do that and there's plenty of time to win or lose a job once we start hitting."
While Arians said Earl Watford is "more than ready" to compete with Fanaika, who started all 16 games last season, Fanaika hasn't given Watford an opportunity to overtake him.
"He's contending," Arians said of Watford, "it's just Paul is playing so well."
A lot of attention has been paid to the battle at right tackle between Massie and Bradley Sowell, who started 12 of 16 games last season at left tackle after Levi Brown was traded. Arians said Massie has "surpassed" Sowell "a little bit."
Massie, who admitted he struggled to learn Arians' offense last year, said he worked on eliminating his mental errors during offseason workouts. It's carried into camp and Arians has noticed, pointing out that Massie wasn't on Arizona's accountability sheet Sunday morning.
Spending last year learning the offense as Eric Winston's backup and studying on his own helped Massie. But his experience in 2012 helped even more. Massie allowed 13 sacks in his first eight games and none the second half of the season.
"I kinda had the mindset coming off 2012 and I finished a top 3 tackle in the league in pass protection, I was still coming off that kind of high," Massie said. "I felt I deserved the spot because of the way I played but obviously that wasn't the case and that showed. It was just a learning experience for me."
In the best shape of his career -- high school and college included -- Massie understands one person can undo all the work he's put in.
"I put myself in this position so the only person that can mess it up is me," he said. "So, I'm perfectly fine with it. Just play ball."
The one person who won't be fine with it if he's not starting in September is Sowell, who was unseated as the starting left tackle when Arizona signed Jared Veldheer on the second day of free agency. Sowell isn't worrying about not getting first-team reps, instead focusing on improving the reps he's given, which have been on the second team.
He knows, especially with the Cardinals putting on pads Monday, anything can happen.
"It is what it is," Sowell said. "You never know in this league and you keep battling until the end."