Cardinals wrap up “business-like” training camp
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals ended one of the NFL’s longer training camps on Friday, shutting it down amid talk around the league that this could be a Super Bowl team.
“I thought it was very business-like,” coach Bruce Arians said. “I thought our guys came to work every day. We had maybe two lull practices, mostly young guys.”
Arians said the three players who came off the physically unable to perform list last week — All-Pro defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback Justin Bethel and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker — will get 10 to 12 plays in Sunday’s preseason game at Houston.
Mathieu had the day off from Friday’s practice.
Bethel jumps into the fight for the only starting job not settled, cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson.
Arians said Mike Jenkins is in the mix, along with rookie Brandon Williams, who started the first two preseason games.
“It’s up in the air between three guys,” Arians said.
Jenkins, signed as a free agent after two seasons with Tampa Bay, broke his hand early in practice and is playing with a cast on it, albeit a smaller one than he had at first.
The cornerback position is critical for the Cardinals because opposing quarterbacks rarely throw in the direction of the All-Pro Peterson.
Arians said he is uncertain how much the starters will play against the Texans. Quarterback Carson Palmer is expected to play less than one half.
Jake Coker, the undrafted rookie quarterback from Alabama, will miss the game with a sore knee. Arians said an MRI was planned but he expected Coker, who faces an uphill fight to make the roster, to be back next week.
The expectations for running back David Johnson are as high as they are for the team.
As a starter in the final five games of the regular season, Johnson ran for 658 yards, had 216 yards receiving and scored five touchdowns. Overall, he led the team in touchdowns with 13 — eight rushing, four receiving and one kickoff return.
Johnson embraces the hype.
“It’s good for me,” he said. “After the way I ended last year, the expectations are high, definitely. I feel like I’m ready to prove my worth.”
The expectations are equally high for the Cardinals, who went 13-3 last season — second-best record in the NFC — but finished with a blowout loss to Carolina in the NFC championship game.
Every skill player on offense who gained a yard or scored a point for the No. 1 offense in the league last season is back. The offensive line is rebuilt, with veteran Evan Mathis at right guard and T.J. Humphries, a first-round draft pick who didn’t suit up for a game as a rookie last season, at right tackle.
The first-team offense drove the length of the field in the preseason opening loss to Oakland but didn’t do much in three series in the second game, a loss at San Diego. But Arians and Palmer said they’re not concerned because it’s only preseason and the first team offense hasn’t played much.
On defense, the Cardinals added Pro Bowl outside linebacker Chandler Jones in a trade with New England and signed free agent safety Tyvon Branch.
Arians was asked how newcomers Mathis, Jones and Branch have done.
“I think all those guys are exactly what we hoped for,” the coach said, “solid pros, team-oriented people, want to do whatever it takes to win a championship.”
The Cardinals reported to camp on July 28. They stayed in a nearby hotel and practiced in the air-conditioned comfort of University of Phoenix Stadium, their home in the regular season.
Arians said he stretched the length of camp because he didn’t want to crowd 90 players into the practice bubble at the team’s practice facility in Tempe, where workouts would have had to be held because of the desert’s searing heat.
The Cardinals move back to Tempe for practices Monday and Tuesday. They are home against Denver in the final preseason game next Thursday night, a contest that most of the starters will sit out. Arizona opens its regular season Sept. 11 at home against New England.
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