When the final practice of minicamp ended Thursday morning, earlier than expected, it gave the Arizona Cardinals a jump on summer vacation.
But instead of celebrating with back slaps and high fives on a minicamp well done, the Cardinals looked at their improvement, gave it a nod and moved on. They know there’s still work to be done, especially offensively.
“I’m extremely happy with where we are,” Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said. “We have a long way to go. I couldn’t be happier to see the growth from the film we watched this offseason of us playing in games, and to see where we are now and to see the future’s bright because you see mistakes made and you see the potential of the scheme, the potential of these plays.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians shared in the admiration of the progress the offense made, especially compared to last offseason, but it’s still not up to his standards.
“I'm pleased where we are. We’re not where we need to be to win what we want to win,” Arians said. “We’re still making too many mistakes and especially in the blitz game with all 11 guys.”
It would’ve been easy for the Cardinals to have gone stagnant during practice, Palmer said, especially this time of the year. The status quo could’ve been the status quo for Arizona. The offense found its rhythm in the second half of the season, topping 300 yards in each of the final nine games and 400 in three of those. Arizona’s lowest output during that stretch was 307 yards against Seattle in Week 16, a game the Cardinals still won. Its most was 482 a week later against San Francisco.
Even though they weren’t perfect, the Cards finished the season playing good football. It would’ve been understandable had Arizona remained content until training camp. But that wasn’t the case, Palmer said.
“We’ve gotten better every day,” he said. “You can see the improvement. You can see the individuals improve and you can hear the coaching in the classroom and on the field.”
One thing Palmer noticed since April 21, when the team descended on Tempe to start conditioning, was his teammates’ willingness to put in extra time. Slowly the mistakes began to decrease along with the names on the Cardinals’ accountability sheet, which tracks mental errors and mistakes. It’s been getting shorter every day this offseason.
Last year, that wasn't the case.
“It did not ever get better last year,” Palmer said.
One large reason for their improvement was their ability to watch film of themselves. Last offseason Arizona watched game film of Pittsburgh and Indianapolis – two teams that Arians coached with – running Arians’ scheme. It didn’t register for the Cards the same way, and Palmer said this group learned better watching themselves instead of studying “a diagram on a piece of paper.”
He watched the strides being made and the mistakes being lessened.
“You have the same play and the same defense comes up and all of a sudden you do it right and it’s a nine-yard gain on third-and-3,” Palmer said. “You see it on the field and you see it in the film room of the strides that we’ve been making.”
But Palmer also sees the strides the Cardinals can make in training camp.
“Just knowing we got a long way to go and we got a lot of training camp, we’re going to get a lot of reps,” he said. “We’re going to get a lot of plays. That’s kinda Coach Arians … that’s his motto. You’re not out there in practice to get quality reps. It’s just get rep after rep after rep, and then we’ll coach it up.
“That’s really good.”