TEMPE, Ariz. -- During his first four months on the job, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians didn't shy away from superlatives.
Carson Palmer is the best deep passer he has ever seen. The Cardinals' quarterback situation was as good as any other in the NFL. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is good enough to carry a team to the Super Bowl. The receiving corps was the best he ever inherited.
And on and on.
So it was interesting this week when Arians said the performance of his offense in recent OTAs was lacking.
"Right now, our defense is way outplaying our offense, and our offense needs to pick it up," Arians said. "We're behind where I'd like to be right now."
The Cardinals entered the second week of OTAs knowing their offense needed considerable work. But Tuesday was not a good day. Palmer and his receivers had trouble connecting on deep passes. Backup Drew Stanton has not looked good, and coaches have ranted about the number of mental mistakes.
Overall, the struggles are not unexpected. The entire team is undergoing great changes and this is only the second week of practices with the full team.
What irritated Arians, however, is that players didn't learn from the mistakes they made last week.
"Learning," Arians replied when asked what the biggest problem was. "We're just not picking it up fast enough, still not picking it up the way I'd like to, at all positions. It's a little bit easier to put in a defense than an offense."
The biggest problem seems to be at receiver. After all, these practices involve no contact, so it's impossible to judge offensive linemen, the run game or pass protection.
But you can tell when a receiver runs the wrong route, or a poor one. You can tell when they don't use proper technique, like "squeezing" a defender to create more space for a catch, or when they drop passes. Or when the quarterback makes a poor read.
While Arians placed fault at all positions, he later singled out receivers as being guilty of not learning quickly enough from mistakes.
"I really don't like mental mistakes, especially if you made the same one last week. That should be corrected and in the books by now. Our receivers are not getting that done. "
There is plenty of time to correct the mistakes. The Cardinals have two more practices this week, break for a week, then return for two weeks of OTAs in June.
They might not be on the same page by then, but maybe they will at least be in the same library. That would be progress.
And there is a positive way to look at the team's performance so far. The defense has looked good, Arians said.
--TE Jeff King hasn't practiced in OTAs yet after undergoing knee surgery this off-season. The Cardinals are hopeful that he can participate in June's OTAs. ... DE Darnell Dockett didn't adapt well to the system installed by former defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Dockett's statistics plunged as he was asked to two-gap and free linebackers to make tackles. In Todd Bowles' system, Dockett will do more one-gapping, which better suits his skills, he said. "They want us to create penetration," end Calais Campbell said of he and Dockett. "They want us to shove them (offensive linemen) back 2 yards, 3 yards deep and be able to shed blocks quicker and made tackles in the backfield, which I think Dockett and myself would be very, very good at. You know, we're very athletic."