Cardinals wrap up OTAs with air of confidence
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals wrapped up what coach Bruce Arians called ''outstanding'' OTAs, the team displaying an obvious air of confidence about what lies ahead in the coming season.
''We got a lot accomplished as a football team,'' Arians said after Thursday's session, ''in every phase - special teams, offense, defense. Everybody got better.''
The Cardinals have three days of minicamp next week, then are off until training camp begins in late July.
''I'm very, very intrigued to see what we can do this year,'' defensive end Calais Campbell said. ''This team is special. Talent's not the issue, leadership's not the issue. We have all the pieces in place. We've got to go out there and handle business, but we'll come back ready to work and when the time comes we'll figure out how good we can be.''
The team's optimism stems from the way the Cardinals played through most of last season before injuries to their top two quarterbacks.
The Cardinals were 9-1, the best record in the NFL at that point, but quarterback Carson Palmer went down with a torn ACL. Then backup Drew Stanton was sidelined with a knee injury. The offense vanished and the defense, so stout through most of the season, showed cracks as the team staggered to the finish line.
Still, at 11-5, Arizona made the playoffs, losing at Carolina in the wild card game.
The Cardinals are healthy now, or at least almost so. Palmer participated in OTAs but was held out of 11-on-11 drills as a precaution. He could take some reps in those drills in next week's minicamp and expects to be ready to fully participate in training camp.
''I think OTAs went great from day one,'' cornerback Jerraud Powers said. ''It seems like the offense was just clicking. It wasn't like guys were trying to learn. It was just more so finding your tools.''
The defense was a bit apprehensive, Powers said, after the departure of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who left to become head coach of the New York Jets. James Bettcher was promoted from outside linebackers coach to take Bowles' job.
''Whenever you get a new defensive coordinator, you just don't know how it's going to go,'' Powers said, ''and I think after the first couple of days everybody was like, `OK, I see what we're trying to do and what we're getting at.'''
Powers said the OTAs just whetted the appetite for minicamp and beyond.
''There was not one day where we didn't get better, so I think it went great,'' he said. ''I'm looking forward to minicamp. You'll see a bunch of guys flying around at minicamp. So I think we did a great job getting ready to head toward Glendale,'' the site of training camp.
There are some position battles, principally at center, outside linebacker, inside linebacker and nose tackle.
Arians said there were spirited across the board.
''Our guys know how to practice and it was evident in the time frame we were here and how many reps we got in,'' he said.
Arians, NFL coach of the year two of the last three seasons, said the team's confidence is ''extremely high.''
''They've accomplished a lot in two years, the guys who have been here,'' he said. ''They see the young guys and they see the depth that we have.''
And there's a sour feeling about the way last season ended.
''After Week 10 they know how close they were,''' Arians said. ''We still got into the playoffs, but we didn't get it done, so there's a lot of feelings that `Hey, we left it on the table,' but we can also get back there.''
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