Miles Traveled to date: 5,460
A few minutes before the pilot landed in Phoenix he told us the temperature on the ground was 108. Driving north to Flagstaff, it didn’t take too long before that become a much more manageable 70. That’s the reason the Cardinals are here in Flagstaff, at 7000 feet above sea level, it makes for almost ideal surroundings to practice, although the elevation can also make for swiftly changing conditions on occasion, too. The campus of Northern Arizona University is friendly, quiet, and picturesque and overall I get the feeling it may be downhill after this through not a lot of fault of the other training camp locations.
1) Kolb vs. Skelton
It’s almost too much of a cliché to write about this, but the situation regarding who will be the Cardinals’ quarterback at both the start and end of the season is rampant. Willie McGinest was quoted this morning as saying the “feeling” among players he talked to is that John Skelton will be the man. If that is indeed the case, it shouldn’t be, based on what we saw last year; in essence, Kevin Kolb played poorly and lost but Skelton played far worse and won. That’s simplistic but it is probably at the root of all this talk–together with the fact he’s a much more imposing figure physically. In addition, there’s something about him that the other players gravitate to. I do question if the controversy would be so all-pervasive if Skelton’s starts had all been losses even if he’d played slightly better than he actually did.
2) The Curious Case of Adam Snyder
It was strange to us at PFF that the Cardinals actively targeted Adam Snyder in Free Agency. The fact they gave him a contract averaging $3.5M per year blew our minds. It seemed like the 49ers had spent the best part of the last few seasons trying to replace him but always failing because of injuries or someone playing even more poorly than he had. Last year playing worse wasn’t an easy task and in our opinion only Jaguars LG Will Rackley succeeded. The 49ers eventually moved on and now Snyder is nailed on to start at right guard. Is this another foul-up along the lines of Joey Porter–a player clearly not playing well who the Cardinals saw something in that no one else did–or will he win through? I, for one, am intrigued although the late day pick-up of Russ Hochstein may be instructive.
3) A Season of Two Halves
No player had a more two-sided season in 2011 than left tackle Levi Brown. In Weeks 1 through 10 he was on his way to possibly the worst season we’ve ever seen from the position (giving up a quarterback disruption on almost 11% of passing plays), but the game at San Francisco saw an unbelievable turnaround where his standard of play, if extrapolated through a whole season, would have seen him picking up our second-team All-Pro. The highlight of all this was probably holding DeMarcus Ware without a single pressure against the Cowboys in Week 13.
With a $17M cap number beckoning in 2012, even this late season wasn’t enough for him to initially be retained and he was cut. But on March 8th he signed a new deal worth $6M per year with $12M guaranteed.
So the question for this year is: which Levi Brown shows up? The guy who, for four-and-a-half years, was the poster boy for highly-drafted busts? Or the player who for half a year was about as good as it gets protecting John Skelton’s blindside?
● I spoke to Daryl Washington and asked him what he needed to do to improve (on his excellent 2011 performance). He believes the key is patience and hence being more consistent in diagnosing plays.
● His two up-and-coming players on defense to watch this year were Dan Williams (who weighed in at a lithe 314 pounds) and O’Brien Schofield who he feels will be able to generate the pressure outside that’s been so badly lacking recently.
● Interestingly, Washington also mentioned if Paris Lenon was to go down (at least in-game) then Stewart Bradley will become the guy receiving and disseminating the play calls, not him.
● One of the key questions on defense is: who will start at corner opposite Patrick Peterson? Today William Gay got the initial reps, although Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson, and rookie Jamell Fleming will certainly be in the mix.
● As expected, the right tackle position was manned by Jeremy Bridges today.
July 26 – Chargers (San Diego)
July 27 – Saints (Metairie)
July 28 – Broncos (Englewood)
July 29 – Seahawks (Renton)
July 30 – 49ers (Santa Clara)
July 31 – Raiders (Napa)
August 1 – Dolphins (Davie)
August 2 – ?????
If you’ve got questions for Neil to take along to any of his upcoming camp visits, follow him on Twitter (@PFF_Neil) and let him know.