COMMENTARY | With the blow of a whistle, the 2013 NFL season began, and the Arizona Cardinals began it by running special teams drills at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Punts were fielded with gunners racing toward return-men, which led immediately to a Patrick Peterson muffed catch -- don't worry, it's Day 1 of camp, there's bound to be a bit of rust.
Field goals followed punt drills, and kicker Jay Feely did not miss any of the six or seven he booted (I did not count).
After that, it was time for offensive and defensive drills, separately at first, then together for about an hour to end the first practice of the 2013 season. Here is a rundown of who looked good and who did not in a far-too-early critique of your Arizona Cardinals as they attempt to erase the memory of a fetid 2012 season.
Two who impressed
Ryan Williams looks healthy, quick
On more than one occasion Friday afternoon, running back Ryan Williams did something that brought a smile to my face. These were not highlight-reel plays, as it's difficult to have those during an unpadded practice.
But little things like cutting upfield on his once-ruined knee, or galloping at a dead sprint -- if only for a second -- with no limp or hitch means he is healthy and ready to go.
It was a solid first day of work for Williams, and it's a good sign for the oft-injured back who has had many fans give up on the promise he showed coming out of Virginia Tech.
Carson Palmer sharp from the start
Early and often, quarterback Carson Palmer delivered lasers to running backs and receivers on his way to a positive beginning in Arizona. His deep ball -- which was featured often during the team scrimmage that ended practice -- was on point the majority of the afternoon, with only one or two floating long.
He left none short and was not picked off.
Palmer said after practice that this opening day of camp was better than most he had experienced throughout his career.
"There was some good, some things that obviously we need a lot of work on," Palmer told Tyler Nickel of BreakthroughSports.com. "I think overall, it was a very typical first day. Some of the rust is coming off for some of the guys. The one good thing you look at is guys are flying around, guys are excited to be out there and excited to get going. There's not the attitude of, 'Let's get through camp.' There's the attitude of, 'Let's get better.'"
The crowd of reportedly 8,100 fans erupted in a fervent roar on nearly every strike to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. A great thing to see when watching Fitz catch Palmer-thrown footballs is that he does not have to contort his body to adjust to the pass or jump through the building just to get to it.
Palmer leads him perfectly far more often than not, and that is refreshing to see after what happened the last three seasons.
Two who depressed
Ryan Lindley still not accurate
It was understandable for head coach Bruce Arians to release the duo of Kevin Kolb and John Skelton this offseason. What continues to puzzle some is the release of Brian Hoyer and the subsequent decision to keep Ryan Lindley.
Compared to Lindley, the other three quarterbacks who started for the Cardinals last season were Pro Bowl-worthy.
He showed good accuracy and timing on out-routes and slants Friday, but his deep ball was routinely wide or long to anyone and everyone he targeted during the scrimmage.
That is on-par with how he performed on deep passes as a rookie last season -- he completed just 1-of-20 for 25 yards and two interceptions and a 0.0 passer rating (related Animal House clip).
LaRon Byrd drops the ball
After praising and metaphorically slapping LaRon Byrd in the face in one sentence during OTAs, it was a must for the second-year receiver to show well as camp opened.
He did not do that, exactly.
Byrd's chances of making the roster improved slightly after rookie Ryan Swope tragically was forced to retire due to the threat of concussion symptoms having a long-term impact on his life. Those improved chances did not last long, however.
On one play during the scrimmage, Byrd ran a deep in-route from the right side. He was covered well, but the ball found its way to his hands regardless and, when it bounced off them as though it had hit a wall, a defender snatched it out of the air for the defense's only pick of the day.
More of that and Byrd may be out in Arizona.
Other news and notes
-- Tight ends were featured heavily on Day 1. All four top tight ends had multiple receptions, with Rob Housler and Jeff King leading the way for the group. There were many backside throws to them in the flats; they were wide open often and would have gone for big yardage many times even if the scrimmage had been fully padded and full contact.
-- Former Arizona State receiver Kerry Taylor made a few nice plays Friday. He displayed good hands and sideline awareness on multiple receptions, and he appears to be quicker than he was at ASU. With Byrd struggling, Taylor could be a candidate to replace him.
-- Cornerbacks Javier Arenas, Justin Bethel and Bryan McCann played well during the scrimmage. All three deflected a pass, and Bethel played exceptionally well while on the outside.
-- Defensive lineman David Carter pulled himself out of the scrimmage at one point and appeared to be limping. He returned shortly afterward, but it will be interesting to see if coaches keep him out of practice as a precautionary measure.
-- Right tackle Eric Winston, who signed Thursday, was at practice and played with the second unit most of the day. Arians said he will compete with Bobby Massie for the starting right tackle spot (and Nate Potter will battle Levi Brown for LT), so we can dispel all other possibilities -- for now, at least.
-- While Ryan Williams was impressive Friday, Rashard Mendenhall was neither impressive nor depressing. His first practice as a Cardinals running back went so-so, as he did not flash anything spectacular and he did not make any glaring mistakes. For now, Williams is ahead of Mendenhall because of his day. Lots more to come from these two, no doubt.
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