Cardinals cornerbacks Justin Bethel (left) and Brandon Williams talk at training camp on Friday.
Brandon Williams went through a trial by fire on Friday afternoon, and it started with Smoke.
The Cardinals' rookie cornerback was burnt on an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Palmer to wideout John "Smokey" Brown near the outset of his first training camp practice, a welcome-to-the-NFL moment for the third-round pick.
"I've got a long way to go," Williams said afterward. "The speed of the game is way faster than college."
That was the low point, but Williams otherwise handled himself pretty well in repeated matchups against Brown, Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson. He may want to get used to going against those talented wide receivers, as Williams slotted in with the first-team defense due to the absence of projected starting cornerback Justin Bethel (foot), who could be out at least two more weeks.
As Williams spoke with reporters after the practice, star cornerback Patrick Peterson walked by with a glowing review.
"That kid, he's got it," Peterson said.
Peterson and Williams have developed a quick chemistry. After minicamp was over, Williams asked if the pair could work out together during the summer break, and Peterson enthusiastically agreed.
"He saw that there were some things he needed to get better," Peterson said. "He always told me he wanted to learn from the best in the game, and I love taking young guys under my wing, because that's what it's all about."
The second cornerback position is perhaps the biggest question mark on the team, and the Cardinals have a plethora of options after drafting Williams and Harlan Miller while also adding veterans Shaun Prater, Asa Jackson and Mike Jenkins in free agency.
Bethel filled in last season when Jerraud Powers and Tyrann Mathieu were injured, and hopes to hold off the competition for the starting spot. While Bethel knows he can't rush back to the field and risk another setback, it's not easy for him to watch from the sidelines.
"It sucks that I couldn't do anything in OTAs, then not being able to do anything right now kind of sucks," Bethel said. "We're bringing guys in and we've got young guys that are looking great. I just want to go out there and be with those guys."
SHIPLEY CLEAR FRONT-RUNNER IN CENTER COMPETITION
There are very few starting position battles on the offensive side of the ball, and the one expected to be the fiercest may not develop.
Arians continues to tout veteran A.Q. Shipley as the clear leader in the fight for starting center. Fourth-round pick Evan Boehm was expected to challenge him, but at this point it would be an upset for Boehm to surpass Shipley. The more likely candidate to push Shipley now seems to be veteran Earl Watford, who played guard and tackle but never center previously.
"It's A.Q.'s job to lose," coach Bruce Arians said. "He's the veteran. I was really pleased with what Earl did. I'm anxious to see him play that position in pads and with real live bullets. Evan can prove me wrong. A lot of rookies have."
MORE DATA TO STUDY
The Cardinals added a virtual reality system which quarterback Carson Palmer really embraced a season ago, and now will get more reams of information heading their way. Arians said footballs with data-chips are coming to the Cardinals, and they will be able to monitor every single throw at practice.
The team will be able to tell if Palmer's velocity is dipping as he fatigues, and other useful nuggets. While every sport continues to add technology, Arians isn't going to rely on the data much for player evaluation.
"Some guys timed at 4.7 (seconds in the 40-yard dash) come out here and play like they're 4.5," Arians said. "I don't put a lot of stock in that. It's still how you play the football game. It's not a video game yet."
GRESHAM, JENKINS LEAVE PRACTICE
Tight end Jermaine Gresham and cornerback Mike Jenkins left practice early. The severity of their injuries won't be known until Arians speaks with reporters Saturday. Cornerback Elie Bouka (Achilles) and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (ankle) didn't practice.