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Cardinals Need Camp To Provide Better Boost

After stumbling to begin last season, focus improved as team opens at University of Phoenix Stadium


Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) talks with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald during an OTA this offseason. The Cardinals report to training camp Friday.

Training camp starts Friday for the Cardinals, It feels little like the beginning of camp a season ago.

"They don't have (expectations) from the outside because no one is picking us to win more than seven games," coach Bruce Arians said. "But they damn sure have them on the inside, because those expectations never change."

No longer are the Cardinals the NFC favorite of many. The belief within the team, as Arians noted, remains. But camp – the first practice is Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium, with padded work beginning Monday – is the crucial first step.

Arians has said the Cardinals never quite recovered from their season-opening loss at home to the Patriots last

season after missing a last-second field goal. In retrospect, the preparation leading to that Patriots game was not ideal, with off-kilter preseason game performances.

Almost as soon as the season ended, Arians promised more hitting in training camp. It's a tone he and many others in the organization believe need to be set.

"I do believe the focus level on our team is at an all-time high," defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said this week on Arizona Sports 98.7. "I almost feel like we were a laughingstock (in 2016) because we didn't do what everyone thought we were going to do."

There is only so much tackling that can be done. Arians also ramped up the situational work in the offseason and that plan too will carry over – defending a certain lead with time running down, needing to get into field goal range with little time and no timeouts, that sort of thing – into camp.

The Cardinals don't have long before they get to their first game. They have started so early because the Hall of Fame game against the Cowboys is here soon – two weeks, on the night of Aug. 3. That will be the first of five preseason games. The preseason home opener is Aug. 12 against the Raiders.

Battles for starting spots are few and far between. Right guard and No. 2 cornerback may be the only spots truly undecided (and Evan Boehm and Justin Bethel will have the post position for those spots, respectively.) How the Cardinals sort the back end of the roster – the final couple of receivers, the final couple of defensive backs, whether to keep three quarterbacks – will be where the main battles lie.

Because of a new NFL rule, there will be no cut to 75 players before the final preseason game. Teams can keep up to 90 guys all the way until the final 53-man cut, which will make for a chaotic transaction scene in early September while also giving more time for younger players to prove their worth.

For those that make it through to September, there will two road games waiting to start the season. Getting off to a better start, and using training camp to make that happen, is the plan of the next five weeks.

Images from the first practice of 2017 minicamp

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