10 things learned during Cards' offseason

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
3:30
PM ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- With the Arizona Cardinals' offseason practices having wrapped up for another year, it's time to look back on what we learned. The offseason hasn't been short on storylines, ranging from Patrick Peterson's public debate with Seattle's Richard Sherman to the competition for right tackle.

Here are 10 things we learned from the Cardinals' offseason:

- John Brown is the real deal. Throughout organized team activities and minicamp, quarterback Carson Palmer repeatedly talked about how rookie wide receiver Brown jumped out at him, mainly because of his speed. Brown, who played at Division II Pittsburg State, was considered a head-scratcher when he was selected in the third round by the Cards, but he's proved -- without pads, at least -- that he's capable of being an NFL receiver and returner. Throughout all 16 practices, Brown didn't have his first bad one until this week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

- Position decisions won't be made until pads. For the past month, the Cardinals, who have to practice without pads, have been playing more soccer than football (or futbol), according to Arians. And that's made it difficult for him to fairly assess just how good or how far along his players are, which, in turn, means Arians can't make any decisions on position battles. He's said repeatedly this offseason that he won't be able to name a starter until he watches guys practice with pads on.

- Michael Floyd has flourished. In his third offseason, Floyd established himself as better than he's been throughout his career -- and that's after coming off a career season. Arians singled him out Thursday, as he has all offseason, for having a great month of practice.

- Arizona still isn't set at inside linebacker. Losing two starting inside linebackers can set a defense back, but the Cardinals are trying to avoid any demise in the interior of their middle layer after Karlos Dansby left for Cleveland in free agency and Daryl Washington was suspended for a year. That left Arizona with Kevin Minter at one inside spot and likely Larry Foote at the other, neither of whom are comparable to the Dansby or Washington, and it's left the Cards in an uncomfortable position. They lost speed, quickness and smarts leaving Arizona needing to find a way to replace them with just three months before the season opener.

- What a difference a year makes. It's been on repeat throughout camp: The Cardinals have looked “light years” better than they did last offseason. Being able to watch their own clips on film from practice and games has given the team a different perspective when it comes to learning the offense, which struggled mightily during the first eight games of last year. This year, the team not only knows what it's doing, but it's able to accurately perform the function on the field, something they struggled with last season. There's also a better understanding of not just what each player does individually but what their teammates do, as well.

• The tight end room is legitimate. It actually might be too good. Arians has praised the size, speed and athleticism of the room, which includes Rob Housler, Jake Ballard, John Carlson and rookie Troy Niklas. On Thursday, he said there may be one too many good tight ends, possibly hinting at an offseason move.

• Practice has been improving. Every week, it seems like, the Cardinals are having one of if not their best practice of the offseason. The last week seemed to be better than the previous ones, as Arians seemed surprised that Wednesday's practice topped Tuesday's practice.

• Players have stepped up in the absence of teammates. With the likes of Tyrann Mathieu out while recovering and linebacker John Abraham sitting out most of voluntary OTAs as did Peterson, it gave other players the chance to prove their worth to Arians. Rashad Johnson was given crucial snaps at safety, as was Tony Jefferson who filled in when rookie Deone Bucannon went down with a turf toe injury. Justin Bethel was able to get more reps, as was Bryan McCann and Jerraud Powers.

• Right tackle is the hottest competition. There's competition at other positions but it seems like all eyes are on the right tackle battle between Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell. It's been reported that Massie will be the starter heading into training camp, which is no surprise because he's been practicing with the first team.

• Arians doesn't look at how others grade his players. On Tuesday, Arians was asked about how outsiders judge and grade the Cards' defense, in particular Peterson. “Those people [don't] know a damn thing about our defense and what we're asking him to do. I have to laugh when I see all these comparisons. Guys are in defenses doing different things and they have no clue what the coach is asking, whether he's doing the right thing or wrong thing and all of a sudden I see a grade.” Arians then went on to lament the “plus three or four” grading style as well as ESPN's QBR.

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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