Cardinals coach Bruce Arians kept a close eye on his players during practices.
Bruce Arians is excited for summer break, as it means quality time with his newborn grandson, Aiden.
The Cardinals' coach will take his time off with a feeling of ease, following an offseason that lived up to his high standards. The Cardinals veterans scattered following Thursday's final minicamp practice and the whole team won't meet up again until training camp in July.
When they get there, the expectations won't be nearly as high as they were heading into 2016, when the Cardinals were on a short-list of Super Bowl contenders. Without that pressure, Arians saw a free and loose group this offseason, but one still focused on the task at hand.
"We had great participation – everybody was here – and guys worked extremely hard," Arians said. "We had great leadership. Really couldn't ask for anything more out of them work-wise. They worked extremely hard and we're learning to work smarter."
The mental aspect was something harped on considerably throughout the practices, as Arians tries to prepare his players for the pressure-packed moments of the regular season. The accountability sheet that usually isn't brought out until training camp was used for the first time in the spring so players would know when they messed up. Arians said the veterans mostly kept their names off it.
The rookies are a work-in-progress, and they'll continue the education with more development at the training facility over the next few weeks.
"Our young guys have a ton of talent, and they just have to learn what the hell they're doing," Arians said. "We'll keep them around for the next two weeks and get some more practice time with them so they can be better prepared when they get to camp."
Arians highlighted the defensive backs as a group which really improved throughout the offseason. He also regularly praised the wide receivers, happy with the depth and competition that will spill over into training camp.
One thing that will be easier to evaluate there will be the play of the linemen. Offensive tackles D.J. Humphries and Jared Veldheer switched sides this offseason, and while there weren't any glaring issues, Arians is in wait-and-see mode on their progress.
"It's very hard (to fully evaluate)," Arians said. "You can see pass protection -- to a point, because we don't bull-rush each other – and you can watch footwork and what the guys are doing naturally. We have really good outside pass-rushers, and I didn't see them running by those guys that much, so I was pleased with their progress. They've still got work to do."
The Cardinals know their season won't be made or lost in the offseason, which quarterback Carson Palmer hammered home when asked about the first batch of projections that have started to slip out.
"I don't read power polls or rankings in June," Palmer said.
Even so, this was the first part of the build-up to the season, when teams try to meld a lot of new faces together and keep the holdovers sharp. While a stint away from the team is upcoming, defensive tackle Frostee Rucker hopes the hard work continues behind the scenes.
"This is when it really starts," Rucker said. "You vacation before OTAs and minicamp start. This is where you really put the grind in. This is the stuff that you do when no one is looking, so you come back to camp ready to go."
Images from the second minicamp practice of 2017