Training Camp for the Arizona Cardinals has officially ended, two pre-season games still remain but as far as injuries go it wasn’t too bad. As far as rookies go it went pretty well. As for the team’s first string offense and defense, the Cardinals were very successful against both the Chiefs and the Chargers. But the biggest story out of training camp this year was the hiring of a female intern on the Cardinal’s coaching staff.
The Jen Welter internship took the NFL headlines by storm. Many wondered how this would all play out, and how the players and even the fans would respond. The players speak very highly of her. The NFL fans? I think Welter gained more followers on twitter than Drake during that Meek Mill time period. And I’ll just go ahead and say it, when you get the Bruce Arian’s stamp of approval people will take notice.
From what I saw Jen Welter preached the fundamentals and technique on the field, drawing from her experience as a player. The players didn’t know hat to call her at first, but she soon had the handle “Dr. J”. Probably because she also used her college degrees in psychology off the field, inspiring the players with notes she left in their lockers, messages that were clearly meant to inspire and to maintain focus. Coach Welter got her respect. One can only hope she can parlay this experience into an NFL job at some point.
Injuries: Card’s Camp kicked off with a string of hamstring injuries that almost appeared to be contagious. Four of the Cardinal’s six runningbacks had hamstring issues, including the newly acquired Chris Johnson (who was most likely brought in because of the hamstring injuries to the other runningbacks). Andre Ellington, David Johnson, and Marion Grice have all gotten back on the field but Chris Johnson is hoping to see his first game time action on Sunday vs the Raiders. CB Jerraud Powers and rookie LB Shaquille Riddick have also battled hamstring injuries, but both are on the mend now and should be fine come regular season. The Cardinals are still dealing with one more though, TE Troy Niklas came into camp with an injured hammy and just re-injured it this past week.
There were some other, more major injuries as well. Corey Peters, Michael Floyd, and Mike Iupati will all miss some time. DT Corey Peters will be out for the season due to a torn Achilles. WR Michael Floyd dislocated a few fingers on his left hand which required surgery but hopes to be back for the season opener. Then you have the LG Mike Iupati who is out with a left knee injury, the time table on his return varies from day to day and report to report, anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks. These injuries change the depth or perceived depth on the team dramatically considering Peters and Iupati were the two big free agency signings.
I think the roster is pretty much set at this point but there are still some positions still up in the air. The Cardinals have about 6 receivers and 5 runningbacks that could theoretically make the team. The defensive line and inside linebackers are deep as well, but I won’t speculate on who stays or goes. As far as talent goes, Arizona may have no qualms with only having two quarterbacks on the roster.
Rookies: First round pick D.J. Humphries was given a nickname in camp by Bruce Arians, the name being “Knee Deep”. The reasoning being that it takes more than a foot up his rear to get him going. The offensive tackle has had a rough camp, but he will have some time to mature as Arizona never planned on starting him right away.
Second round pick Markus Golden has had a solid camp and he only improved as it went on. Markus flashed in the recent game against the Chargers by making tackles and by getting some pressure on the QB. I really like the idea of Golden and Alex Okafor on the field at the same time. The third round pick Rodney Gunter has had a good camp as well, and has been named the starter since the Corey Peters injury was announced.
The other, perhaps even brighter spots from the rookie class has been RB David Johnson and WR J.J. Nelson. David Johnson missed a lot of camp due to injury but quickly impressed with his game against San Diego. This RB can run, he can catch, he has all the tools but will need to work on his blocking if he wants that serious playing time. The WR J.J. Nelson on the other hand is just plain fast, and I mean really fast, even in the decision making. Carson Palmer actually thought he over threw the rookie on a deep route but Nelson just hit the gas, gaining separation from the coverage and making the catch. Nelson looked good on punt returns as well, it looks like GM Steve Keim has found another late round bargain here, dare I say John Brown 2.0?
All in all the Cardinals are 0-2 in pre-season, but their first string units played very well. The next game is in Oakland where the Cardinals plan to keep the starters in for most of the first half. A lot of folks are anxiously anticipating the first look at Chris Johnson, if he is on his game the Cardinals might have the most offensive weapons in the League. (take that Drew Magary)
It will be interesting to see if Arizona can protect the quarterback, or if they pull Palmer early due to the defensive pressure. Most people are hinging the Cardinal’s season on Palmer staying healthy, but as I look around, I don’t see too many teams that would fair well after losing their starting QB. But I get it. The Cardinals were 9-1 at one point last season, and as the QBs went down so did the chances of making a deep run in the playoffs. For the most part the Cardinals are leaving training camp pretty healthy, and sometimes that’s all you can really ask for.
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