NFL Nation: Todd Heap

The Baltimore Ravens announced Tuesday that tight end Todd Heap is going to be inducted into their Ring of Honor this season.

If there is one player in Ravens history who deserves this recognition, it's certainly Heap. He took so many hard hits that he doesn’t remember how many concussions he’s had in his career. He caught a franchise-record 41 touchdowns, 12 more than anyone else in team history, and he accomplished this despite nine starting quarterbacks in 10 seasons (from Elvis Grbac to Joe Flacco).

[+] EnlargeTodd Heap
AP Photo/Matt SlocumTodd Heap did not win a Super Bowl ring, but did catch a Ravens record 41 touchdown passes.
There have been other players who sacrificed and fought just as much as Heap, but Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs all have Super Bowl rings to show for it. Heap was drafted by the Ravens one season after their first championship and was released two seasons before their second one.

For a decade, Heap earned the love and admiration of Baltimore football fans. It showed when the crowd yelled "Heeeap" after every catch.

Without Heap, the Ravens wouldn't have had much of a passing game from 2001 to 2011. Their favorite play was throwing a deep pass down the field and watching Heap leap over defenders to make the catch. He was fearless going over the middle, even though he knew he was going to take a hit like the helmet-to-helmet collision from Brandon Meriweather in 2010. He also rarely went out of bounds, choosing to battle for extra yards.

Putting the team first got Heap into his infamous run-in with Steelers linebacker Joey Porter in 2004. After twisting his ankle, Heap limped to the line of scrimmage so quarterback Kyle Boller could spike the ball and the Ravens didn’t have to use a timeout. As Boller thrust the ball downward, Porter shoved Heap backward with a show of brute force.

By the time his 10-year career in Baltimore was over, Heap ranked second in team history in receptions (467) and receiving yards (5,492), setting marks that all Ravens tight ends will aspire to beat.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Heap said of going into the Ring of Honor. “There are a lot of special players in Ravens history. It’s going to be cool to be listed among them. You never know how deserving it is, but I was pumped and I think it’s going to be cool for years to come.”

Heap becomes the eighth Ravens player to be inducted into the Ring at M&T Bank Stadium, joining running back Earnest Byner (inducted in 2001), defensive end Michael McCrary (2004), linebacker Peter Boulware (2006), offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (2008), kicker Matt Stover (2011), running back Jamal Lewis (2012) and linebacker Ray Lewis (2013).
Offensive tackle Michael Oher signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Tennessee Titans last week, becoming one of a handful of Baltimore Ravens' first-round picks not to remain with the team beyond their rookie deal.

Oher, the 23rd overall pick of the 2009 draft, will be known as a durable yet not dominant offensive tackle during his five seasons with the Ravens.

Let's take a look at where Oher ranks among the Ravens' first-round picks:

1. Ray Lewis, linebacker (1996): He will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NFL history. Few can match Lewis' resume: Two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, two Super Bowl rings, 13 Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl MVP award.

[+] EnlargeOher
AP Photos/David DrapkinMichael Oher has been a durable, if not outstanding, tackle for the Ravens.
2. Jonathan Ogden, offensive tackle (1996): How revered is Ogden? He became the first pure offensive tackle to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility since Jackie Slater in 2001. Ogden went to the Pro Bowl in each of his final 11 seasons in the NFL.

3. Ed Reed, safety (2002): He was the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the first safety in 20 years to win the award. Reed led the league in interceptions for three seasons, and he holds the NFL record for most career interception return yards (1,541) and longest interception return (108 yards).

4. Jamal Lewis, running back (2000): In 2003, Lewis was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year for rushing for 2,066 yards, falling just 39 yards short of the NFL's all-time single season rushing record. He carried the Ravens' offense in the 2000 Super Bowl run and still ranks as the franchise's all-time leading rusher.

5. Terrell Suggs, linebacker (2003): He became the third Ravens player to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, earning the award in 2011 by leading the AFC with 14 sacks and topping the NFL with seven forced fumbles. Suggs has recorded 94.5 career sacks, which is 24.5 more than any other Ravens player.

6. Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle (2006): A five-time Pro Bowl player, Ngata was considered the NFL's best interior defensive lineman a few years ago.

7. Chris McAlister, cornerback (1999): The Ravens' first shutdown cornerback, McAlister forced quarterbacks to throw away from him for years before a knee injury and off-the-field issues caught up to him.

8. Joe Flacco, quarterback (2008): He led the Ravens to a Super Bowl with a Joe Montana-like run and has produced more wins than any other quarterback since 2008. But Flacco's pedestrian regular-season numbers have stopped him from becoming an elite NFL quarterback.

9. Todd Heap, tight end (2001): Overshadowed by Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates in the AFC, Heap remains the Ravens' all-time leader with 41 touchdown catches.

10. Peter Boulware, linebacker (1997): The 1997 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Boulware finished with 70 sacks (second all-time for the Ravens), including a team-record 15 sacks in 2001.

11. Duane Starks, cornerback (1998): He struggled mightily at times, but he had three interceptions in the Ravens' 2000 championship run including a 49-yard return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

12. Ben Grubbs, guard (2007): He started 70 of 74 games for the Ravens and made the Pro Bowl in 2012, his last season with the team.

13. Michael Oher, offensive tackle (2009): He never missed a start in his five-year career, but he fell short of expectations because of false starts and inconsistent pass protection.

15. Mark Clayton, wide receiver (2005): He never led the team in receiving, and he had nine 100-yard receiving games. His best season was 2006, when he caught 67 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns.

16. Kyle Boller, quarterback (2003): A flop as a franchise quarterback, Boller had one 300-yard passing game for the Ravens and seven starts where he threw under 100 yards. His five seasons with the Ravens produced a losing record as a starter (20-22) and just one more touchdown (45) than interceptions (44).

17. Travis Taylor, wide receiver (2000): Yes, Taylor is a bigger bust than Boller. The 10th overall pick of the 2000 draft, Taylor eclipsed 60 catches once and produced a grand total of two 100-yard games. If that doesn't convince you, Taylor didn't score a touchdown in his final 22 games with the Ravens.

Note: Safety Matt Elam was left off the rankings because he's only played one season.

Major overhauls at quarterback, running back and in the defensive secondary jump out when analyzing the Arizona Cardinals' roster heading toward the 2013 season.

The chart at right shows which players have left the roster this offseason after playing offensive or defensive snaps for the team in 2012.

Most striking: The Cardinals didn't really "lose" any of the players listed. They decided to move on from most of them for reasons relating to performance, health, salary, age, scheme fit or some combination of those factors.

Teams usually keep the players they really want to keep. That was the case with Arizona this offseason.

So, while the Cardinals' current players account for a division-low 60.9 percent of offensive and defensive snaps played last season, Arizona isn't complaining. The team lost 11 of its 12 final games and the roster had crept up in age. A few of the players logging considerable snaps in 2012 did so only through injuries to others.

The Cardinals have 10 players age 30 or older, down from 14 at this point last year. That includes specialists Jay Feely, Mike Leach and Dave Zastudil. Arizona has seven offensive or defensive players age 30 or older, matching the NFL average, according to my records.

Paris Lenon, Todd Heap, Adrian Wilson, Adam Snyder, Clark Haggans, Jeremy Bridges, D'Anthony Batiste and Vonnie Holliday no longer remain from the 30-plus group on the roster in June 2012. That group averaged about 33 years old at this time last year.

Quarterback Carson Palmer, safety Yeremiah Bell, linebacker Karlos Dansby and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander are 2013 newcomers in their 30s. They average 32.6 years old and there are only four of them. Palmer in particular represents a clear upgrade at his position. That could also be the case for Dansby, although Lenon annually outperformed expectations at inside linebacker.
Ray Lewis got to say goodbye to Baltimore Ravens fans with a final victory lap at M&T Bank Stadium. Ed Reed, who signed with the Houston Texans on Friday, never had that chance.

That's why it was such a classy gesture for Reed to buy a full-page ad in the sports section of Sunday's Baltimore Sun. Under the headline "Thank You Baltimore," his message to fans reads:
Ravens Nation, My eleven seasons in Baltimore were more than I would have ever imagined, which is why I have such deep love for you all. I will forever cherish my time with the Ravens and the chills that ran down my spine when I finally kissed the Lombardi Trophy.

Special thanks to the City, Team, Organization and all the Fans! I'm going to miss being a part of this tremendous team and organization, but I'll always be Baltimore and my Foundation will remain in this community, this is not a goodbye, but a See You Soon.

Thank you for everything Baltimore, God Bless you.


This isn't the first time an ex-Ravens player has done this. Two years ago, tight end Todd Heap took out a half-page ad to thank Ravens fans before he returned to play in Baltimore as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.

Just like Heap, Reed will get to play in Baltimore one more time when the Texans play at the Ravens this season. And, just like Heap, it will be strange for Ravens fans to see first-hand one of their all-time greats playing in something other than purple.
Along with Patrick Willis, Adrian Wilson and Steven Jackson defined toughness and physical play in the NFC West when the division was known for neither.

It's only fitting Wilson and Jackson are leaving together.

While it's possible one or both could return to the division in some capacity, Wilson's release Friday and Jackson's decision to void his contract signal significant changes.

[+] EnlargeMatt Hasselbeck and Adrian Wilson
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenArizona safety Adrian Wilson terrorized NFC West foes like Matt Hasselbeck for 12 seasons.
The timing feels right in both cases even though it's tough to wave goodbye. Wilson is 33 years old, lost playing time last season and was scheduled to earn a $1 million roster bonus this offseason. The Cardinals have a new coaching staff and a plan to rely more heavily on younger players. Now is the time to move on from Wilson.

"Decisions like this are never easy, but it’s especially tough with someone like Adrian because he’s been such a special player and important part of this organization for the last 12 years," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in a news release.

Wilson and Keim played at North Carolina State at different times. Keim was with the Cardinals when the team drafted Wilson in 2001. If anyone would push for the Cardinals to keep Wilson, Keim would be the one. But he had to realize the move was coming sooner, not later, and this was the right time to make a break.

"He and I have a long history, as many know," Keim said in the statement. "I had the privilege of meeting Adrian at North Carolina State when he was a 17-year old freshman. It was obvious even then that his infectious smile and imposing stature could make him a star. His disruptive style meant opponents always had to know where No. 24 lined up, and the statistics illustrate all that he accomplished through his play on the field. Just as impressive, though, has been the leadership, discipline and determination he brought day in and day out, year in and year out."

I'll remember Wilson for putting huge, message-sending hits on Vernon Davis, Todd Heap, Trent Edwards and others. I'll remember him for delivering punishing hits to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck during a 2008 game in Seattle. Hasselbeck appeared especially drained after the game. He accused Wilson of dirty tactics, then later apologized.

Five Pro Bowls and four All-Pro honors define Wilson as one of the most accomplished safeties of his era. Wilson played 181 games, fifth-most in franchise history. He leaves the Cardinals having picked off 27 passes and registered 25.5 sacks. The latter total is the fourth-most by a defensive back since sacks became a stat in 1982.

We can debate how effective Wilson was playing the run vs. playing the pass, but to me that misses what Wilson represented in his essence. He was a 6-foot-3, 230-pound strong safety and a threat to injure anyone in his path. The hit he put on Edwards drew a $25,000 fine and would have been more appropriate in a 1976 game between Pittsburgh and Oakland. That was the point. Cardinals opponents had to fear Wilson. No more.
The Arizona Cardinals had just lost tackle Levi Brown to a season-ending injury when I asked Daryn Colledge, the team's left guard, about another valuable player on the line, center Lyle Sendlein.

"If we had to replace one guy," Colledge said back then, "he would be the worst one [to lose] probably on the whole football team. He is the key cog, especially for this offensive line. He is the captain and he is our guy."

Next came the part that shot through my mind Monday upon learning that a knee injury would sideline Sendlein for the remainder of the 2012 season.

"Without him," Colledge said, "the wheels just might come off."

Rich Ohrnberger is expected to replace Sendlein beginning Sunday on the road against the New York Jets. He has two NFL starts. Sendlein had started 75 consecutive regular-season games for Arizona, plus six playoff games, including a Super Bowl.

We could make a case that the wheels have already come off. Arizona has lots its last seven games following a 4-0 start. The team has been starting rookies at both offensive tackle spots. Both top running backs have missed much of the season to injuries. Quarterback Kevin Kolb has been out, too, along with tight end Todd Heap and right guard Adam Snyder.

The injury situation has spiraled so far out of control in Arizona that it might reasonably weigh into any decisions the organization might make about the long-term direction of the team under coach Ken Whisenhunt. It has to be a consideration, at least.

Batting around thoughts with Campbell out

November, 18, 2012
When healthy, Calais Campbell is arguably the best player on the Arizona Cardinals' defense.

Campbell is not healthy. A calf injury will prevent him from playing Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. David Carter gets the start instead.

This is only the second time in five seasons Campbell will miss a regular-season game. The 6-foot-8 defensive end has 3.5 sacks and four passes defensed this season.

The Cardinals have batted only four passes this season after ranking third in the NFL last season with 18. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has had only three passes batted this season, tied with Aaron Rodgers for fourth fewest among 32 qualifying quarterbacks. Brandon Weeden (12), Andy Dalton (11), Andrew Luck (10) and Ryan Tannehill (10) have had the most batted this season, followed by Mark Sanchez and a group of four others with nine. Sam Bradford (7), Russell Wilson (5), Kevin Kolb (4), John Skelton (4) and Alex Smith (2) rank lower on the list.

Those figures are from ESPN Stats & Information.

Also, the Cardinals listed tight end Todd Heap among their inactive players. He has not played since suffering a knee injury in Week 2.

Curious case of Cardinals TE Todd Heap

November, 7, 2012
Back on Sept. 24, eight days after the Arizona Cardinals' Todd Heap suffered a knee injury at New England, coach Ken Whisenhunt sounded optimistic about the veteran tight end returning right away.

"I know that Todd was really close last week and it was just more of a decision to let him rest that week with the idea of getting him back," Whisenhunt said at the time.

Heap has missed another six games, apparently without suffering any additional injuries. The team has listed him as questionable on its injury report.

Now, a report from Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic suggests Whisenhunt and defensive lineman Darnell Dockett think Heap should have returned some time ago. Whisenhunt and Heap declined to discuss the matter. The comments Dockett made about players needing to get back on the field more quickly did not name Heap or even hint that Heap was his intended target.

We do know the Cardinals waited until training camp before asking Heap to reduce his $2.15 million salary by $1 million. The timing made it difficult for Heap, 32, to explore other options. He accepted the reduction.

Might the pay issue be affecting Heap's willingness to return quickly or play through pain?

Heap missed six games to injury with Baltimore last season. He has played in 146 games since entering the NFL in 2001. He has six seasons with 16 regular-season starts.

Whisenhunt, asked Oct. 17 about Heap possibly playing at Minnesota in Week 7, kept his comments short.

"Well, I think Todd is a good football player," he said. "There's always a chance, so I hope so."

More recently, on Oct. 31, a reporter asked Whisenhunt whether the team remained "in the same place" regarding Heap.

"Yes," Whisenhunt responded, without elaboration.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Two of the running backs the San Francisco 49ers named inactive Monday night would be starting if available to the opposition.

Such is the injury imbalance for the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.

Running backs Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James are both inactive for the 49ers. Arizona is without its top two backs, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams.

Also inactive for the 49ers: quarterback Scott Tolzien, receiver A.J. Jenkins, safety Trenton Robinson, guard Joe Looney and nose tackle Ian Williams.

The Cardinals' list features quarterback Kevin Kolb, receiver LaRon Byrd, cornerback Greg Toler, linebacker Jamaal Westerman, guard Senio Kelemete, guard Adam Snyder and tight end Todd Heap.

Rich Ohrnberger will start ahead of Snyder at right guard. LaRod Stephens-Howling starts at running back for Arizona. Wells can return from injured reserve Nov. 25. Williams is out for the season.

Neither the Arizona Cardinals nor the Philadelphia Eagles is gloating these days.

Both teams are riding two-game losing streaks after overcoming offensive deficiencies earlier in the season.

The big trade they made before the 2011 season hasn't helped either team as much as anticipated.

Now comes news that Kevin Kolb, the quarterback Arizona acquired from Philadelphia in that deal, will miss several weeks with an injury similar to the one St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola suffered recently.

"Kolb will be unable to play Sunday vs. Minnesota and is expected to be out several weeks after he had multiple ribs detach from his sternum and also suffered a sprained sternoclavicular joint in his chest area against the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday," ESPN's Adam Schefter reports, citing a team source.

The team subsequently released the following update: "CT & MRI results showed no fracture in ribs or sternum. Tests did reveal cartilage damage in his ribs and an SC joint sprain which will keep him out an unspecified period of time."

That means Arizona will proceed with John Skelton as its starter and, most likely, rookie Ryan Lindley as its backup.

Kolb will presumably heal in time to return at some point this season.

Financial considerations will force the team to evaluate whether to keep Kolb beyond this season, and at what price. The contract he renegotiated in 2011 called for his base salary to jump from $1 million this season to $9 million in 2013. The team will need to know by then whether Kolb qualifies as a franchise quarterback.

In 2011, Kolb lasted seven games as the Cardinals' starter before suffering a turf-toe injury that forced him out for four games. He suffered a concussion in his second game back from the toe injury, then missed the final three games.

Kolb lasted five games as the Cardinals' starter this season after subbing for an injured Skelton in the opener and leading the winning touchdown drive.

Kolb has been up and down, often in the same game. The winning plays he made against Miami three weeks ago came after he threw an interception in the end zone while Arizona was holding a 14-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter. He has played behind an offensive line that has struggled in pass protection, particularly at tackle. The team was increasingly easy to defend following injuries at running back as well.

The injury Kolb suffered Sunday stemmed from a mix-up involving second-year backup running back William Powell. Powell went to the wrong side, preventing Kolb from handing off. Kolb ran with the ball and went down hard when tackled.

"It was a miscommunication," coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters Monday. "We checked into a play in that situation, and William is a young player and he didn’t get it, unfortunately. But, there were a lot of things he did well for us [Sunday]. He ran the ball well for us in the second half and did some good things. That was just unfortunate that it happened the way it did."

The Cardinals' injury situation has been unfortunate all season. Skelton, Levi Brown, Jeremy Bridges, Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Todd Heap and now Kolb are among the leading offensive players missing significant stretches.

The chart compares Kolb's production to Vick's production as a means to revisiting the trade.

Philadelphia received from Arizona cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has played well at times, but not consistently. The Eagles, who fired their defensive coordinator Tuesday, also received a 2012 second-round draft choice from the Cardinals. Philadelphia traded that pick to Green Bay for picks the Eagles used on Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin. Curry has yet to play. Boykin has three starts.

Fantasy Watch: Playing time in Week 5

October, 8, 2012
Our weekly look at playing time in the NFC West, slanted toward fantasy football:

  • Arizona Cardinals: The pecking order at wide receiver remains firmly established with Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts playing just about all the offensive snaps. Early Doucet played two-thirds of the snaps as the third wideout. Rookie Michael Floyd played 40 percent. Injuries at running back and tight end contributed to increased snaps for Floyd, as did game circumstances (Arizona trailed). Second-year tight end Rob Housler made a positive impact as a receiver for the second week in a row, showing he deserves continued playing time even when veteran Todd Heap returns from a knee injury.
  • St. Louis Rams: The situation at receiver remains in flux after the Rams lost top wideout Danny Amendola for an estimated six weeks. Austin Pettis saw additional snaps (32 percent) against Arizona, but veteran Steve Smith, who was inactive for the game, could factor as well. Rookie fourth-round choice Chris Givens justified his playing time (84 percent) with another 50-plus yard reception. He played more than Brandon Gibson (62 percent) and appears on the rise. Rookie second-round wideout Brian Quick played 12 snaps (21 percent). The split at running back worked out to 64 percent for Steven Jackson and 36 percent for Daryl Richardson. Jackson played 67 percent of the snaps last season, missing one game to injury.
  • San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers' blowout victory gave them an opportunity to get more players involved. Mario Manningham led the 49ers' receivers with 32 snaps (48 percent). Michael Crabtree, who generally plays the most among San Francisco wideouts, played 43 percent. Kyle Williams was at 30 percent and Randy Moss played 27 percent. Second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick played 19 snaps, a season high. The team continues to work him into the regular offense as a Wildcat-type player. Kaepernick got a chance to finish this game after starter Alex Smith helped build the big lead.
  • Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks played with two backs or two tight ends a significant portion of the time. Fullback Michael Robinson played nearly half the offensive snaps. Second tight end Anthony McCoy played 42 percent. That left fewer snaps for the team's various wide receivers. Sidney Rice played 45 snaps (69 percent). Golden Tate played 63 percent, followed by Ben Obomanu (34 percent), Doug Baldwin (25 percent) and Braylon Edwards (15 percent). Seattle got its skill players more involved in the passing game. Tight end Zach Miller (91 percent) made a key reception over the middle. Rice, Tate and Baldwin contributed.

Wrap-up: Cardinals 27, Eagles 6

September, 23, 2012

Thoughts after the Arizona Cardinals' 27-6 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 3:

What it means: The Cardinals are 3-0 for the first time since relocating to Arizona. They are alone atop the NFC West after San Francisco lost at Minnesota. Beating Seattle, New England and Philadelphia to open the season forces a reassessment of almost universally negative preseason expectations for the Cardinals. Arizona is playing great defensively. The offense showed improvement Sunday. By all appearances, quarterback Kevin Kolb played well enough against the Eagles to remain the starter while John Skelton returns to health.

What I liked: The defense hit Eagles quarterback Michael Vick almost too many times to count. Play after play, the Cardinals put the hurt on Vick, a huge factor in the game. Daryl Washington had two sacks. The secondary played tight coverage down the field to take away Vick's deep options. Arizona's defense has now dominated against Tom Brady and Vick in successive weeks. The defense has been consistently strong while Arizona has won 10 of its 12 most recent games.

Kerry Rhodes played his best game since coming to the Cardinals, a welcome boost while fellow safety Adrian Wilson sat out with injury. Rhodes made a touchdown-saving tackle on one play, then forced a fumble Arizona returned for a pivotal touchdown right before halftime. That was the pivotal sequence in the game, one that allowed the Cardinals to take a 24-0 lead into the half. Rhodes also delivered big hits on Eagles tight end Brent Celek. Arizona was the more aggressive team throughout. The fumble Anthony Sherman forced on special teams provided another example.

Kolb completed 17 of 24 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 127.4 NFL passer rating. He was able to get Larry Fitzgerald involved after a slow start to the season. Fitzgerald, who became the youngest player to reach 700 career receptions, caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He now has 35 catches for 570 yards and nine touchdowns in five career games against Philadelphia. Rookie first-round choice Michael Floyd also caught a scoring pass from Kolb.

Ryan Williams, nearly the goat against New England last week, ran hard and with great effectiveness to help Arizona put away the game. Williams carried 13 times for 83 yards.

What I didn't like: Injuries are becoming a concern for the Cardinals. Skelton, Wilson and Todd Heap missed this game. Williams was shaken up in the final minutes and went to the sideline. Beanie Wells and Darnell Dockett also left the game for Arizona. Dockett had a hamstring injury.

There wasn't much else to complain about. The illegal block Fitzgerald delivered prevented Andre Roberts from getting credit for a 79-yard reception. The block helped spring Roberts, but it did not appear necessary.

What's next: The Cardinals face the Miami Dolphins in Week 4 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
video Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' preseason game Thursday night at the Tennessee Titans:

1. Skelton's rhythm. Horrible pass protection from the starting offensive line, notably left tackle D.J. Young, made it tough for John Skelton to find a rhythm early. Skelton did show an ability to throw on rhythm when given time, including when he found tight end Jeff King over the middle. But he also overthrew his target for an interception on the Cardinals' second play. Skelton faced too many third-and-long situations thanks to sacks, a poor running game and a holding penalty. Rookie receiver Michael Floyd dropped a slightly off-target pass on third-and-3 to kill another drive. Skelton completed 4 of 10 passes for 41 yards and the one pick. He did not make a strong case for the starting job.

Kevin Kolb took over and had no chance on his first possession. The pass protection was that bad. Arizona changed out its tackles from that point forward. Kolb responded by showing immediate improvement. He did a good job staying in the pocket initially. That had been a problem for him. Bad habits die hard, however, and Kolb hurt his cause by rolling right and throwing back toward the middle of the field, resulting in an interception.

Kolb didn't let the mistake rattle him, however -- he played freely after the pick. Going to a two-minute offense probably helped. Kolb went out and played without thinking so much, it appeared. Kolb bailed from the pocket a couple times, but he made it work -- especially when finding Larry Fitzgerald with an across-the-body deep ball while rolling left. That play gained 53 yards. Kolb capped the drive with a touchdown pass to Andre Roberts. He completed 9 of 12 passes for 95 yards in the first half.

Was that drive to end the half enough to boost Kolb into the lead in his race against Skelton? It had to help, but ...

Kolb opened the second half with the starters and promptly threw a pick for a Tennessee touchdown. Arizona gave Kolb another chance, continuing with the no-huddle attack. The approach seemed to keep the Titans' pass rush in check, but this was also a case of Arizona starters working against Tennessee backups. Kolb's pass to Todd Heap converted a fourth-and-1, but the drive ended after officials incorrectly administered offsetting penalties instead of penalizing only Tennessee for having 12 defenders on the field.

2. Beanie Wells' debut. Wells found little running room for the most part. He did accelerate well around the right side, launching himself for extra yardage. Getting through the game healthy had to be the top priority. Wells seemed to come out OK. Gaining 12 yards on six carries won't jump off the stat sheet, but there wasn't much running room for the Cardinals' backs in the first half.

3. The offensive tackles. The Cardinals found out Young isn't the short-term answer on the left side. Young struggled badly against multiple defenders, including Kamerion Wimbley. The Cardinals did not help him. D'Anthony Batiste came into the game at left tackle ahead of schedule. The pass protection improved. Rookie Bobby Massie took over on the right side. The Batiste-Massie combination appeared far preferable. That could be the combination Arizona considers going with heading into the season, unless coaches decide veteran Jeremy Bridges provides a better option.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The focus on offensive tackles and quarterbacks intensified Monday as the Arizona Cardinals held their first full practice since facing Oakland on Friday night.

Left tackle Levi Brown's potentially season-ending triceps injury forced the Cardinals to consider contingencies. Meanwhile, John Skelton worked at quarterback with the starting offense, with Kevin Kolb getting second-team reps as part of their rotation.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt has announced no timetable for naming a starting quarterback for the regular season. Skelton will get the start Thursday against Tennessee.

A few notess and observations from practice at Northern Arizona University:
  • The offensive linemen generally held up well in one-on-one pass-rush drills. A somewhat slippery surface might have worked against the defensive players, however. Tackle D.J. Young, a player the Cardinals are auditioning at left tackle in Brown's extended absence, split matchups against linebacker Antonio Coleman. D'Anthony Batiste, another candidate at tackle, held up well in two of three matchups with Sam Acho, one of the Cardinals' better pass-rushers. I thought Batiste fared well against Quentin Groves as well. Rookie Bobby Massie, a potential starter on the right side, seemed to do well enough in two of the four matchups I watched. He split with Acho. Clark Haggans gave him trouble. Coaches are surely grading on the finer points. I was watching to see if offensive linemen got beat.
  • Young, undrafted from Michigan State in 2011, worked with the starters at left tackle. Batiste was at right tackle. They aren't necessarily the players Arizona will take into Week 1 as starters. The team is in discovery mode while assessing its options. Rookie Nate Potter was the second-team left tackle, with Massie on the right side. Potter faced Acho twice in one-on-one-drills and seemed to do OK.
  • The ball was on the ground quite a bit while Skelton led the first-team offense. The passing game didn't seem to be functioning crisply. Larry Fitzgerald slipped out of a break, coming up short on one ball near the sideline. Fitzgerald also dropped a ball. He was upset with himself after practice, turning serious when the subject arose. Fitzgerald: "I dropped a ball, slipped on a couple routes -- stuff that is inexcusable. I need to give John better looks than that. I have to hold myself to a higher standard. Got to get better tomorrow."
  • Tight end Rob Housler, though enjoying a strong camp overall, had trouble connecting with Skelton a few times. It was a tough day for the tight ends overall. Veteran Todd Heap left practice with a stinger injury. Jeff King suffered a false-start penalty, the offense's third of the day.
  • Kolb, leading the second-team offense while Skelton prepares to start at Tennessee on Thursday, connected on a deep pass to Stephen Williams. "Kevin had a great day today, John made some throws and that's what it's about," Fitzgerald said.
  • Andre Roberts was on point when battling cornerback Larry Parker for the ball. Parker jumped the pass from Skelton, sending the ball into the air. Roberts stayed with it aggressively and made the catch.
  • Inside linebacker Daryl Washington missed practice following a death in the family.

All for now. Time to process some interviews from earlier in the day. I'll be back at practice Tuesday as Cardinals camp breaks.
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

The Arizona Cardinals might wind up releasing a player they currently or recently considered as a starting cornerback. They also have reason to expect more from safeties Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson as both players operate nearer to full health.

Those and other factors made the Cardinals' defensive backfield a worthy choice for this exercise, particularly after cornerback Richard Marshall's departure in free agency raised concerns about the secondary's strength early in the offseason.

Third-round choice Jamell Fleming was arguably the Cardinals' most impressive rookie during organized team activities and minicamps. The non-contact sessions offered only limited glimpses of what players have to offer, but Fleming's quickness stood out to the coaching staff. The Cardinals want to see how he operates as the nickel. Veteran William Gay was a veteran addition in free agency.

Patrick Peterson is locked in as the starter on the left side and should be primed to take a big step forward after finishing strong as a rookie first-round choice in 2011. Former starters A.J. Jefferson and Greg Toler join Gay as candidates to start on the opposite side. Fleming is in the mix. Michael Adams, who played a third of the defensive snaps last season, offers veteran depth (he is 27).

The backup safeties, Rashad Johnson and free-agent addition James Sanders, each played 450-plus snaps on defense last season.

Tight end was another position I considered here. Todd Heap, Jeff King, Rob Housler and Jim Dray give the Cardinals variety, depth and upside.