Images from the first day of 2015 OTAs
The Cardinals nailed the 'organized' part of organized team activities on Tuesday.
The morning practice was the first of a three-week run of OTAs before minicamp, and coach Bruce Arians came away impressed with the physical and mental preparation exhibited by his players.
Arians called his group "the best conditioned team I've seen since we've been here" and said the mental sharpness resulted in a crisp flow. It was the first time helmets could be worn this offseason and the initial foray into 11-on-11 work.
"The barometer for me is, 'How much time is left on the clock, or do we get all the plays run?'" Arians said. "We had about 8-to-10 minutes left on the clock today. The tempo of practice was outstanding."
Arians singled out wide receiver Michael Floyd as a player who is in top physical condition, and said guard Jonathan Cooper has also transformed his body. Keeping everyone healthy is a top priority, as the defensive backs and wide receivers are outfitted with monitors to track the distance they run at each practice.
Arians said fatigue was an issue near the end of the OTAs last year and doesn't want it to sidetrack the team's progress.
"I want to be able to keep them as fresh as possible throughout the entire thing and minicamp," Arians said. "We don't want any soft tissue injuries because of fatigue, and that's the biggest problem in training camp. You're only allowed to practice three hours, so you practice three hours, and most of your injuries come in the last 45 minutes."
Safety Tyrann Mathieu said the defense was keyed in on Tuesday because it wanted to perform well under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Todd Bowles left this offseason to become coach of the Jets, and there are questions about how the defense will fare without him.
"A lot of guys took it personal because we have a new D-coordinator," Mathieu said. "There are different faces in different spots. Everybody came out here and tried to put their best foot forward today."
LOGAN THOMAS HAS COMPETITION
Even though Logan Thomas was drafted in the fourth round last year as the Cardinals' potential quarterback of the future, that
doesn't mean he's guaranteed a roster spot this year.
The team added Chandler Harnish earlier this offseason and Phillip Sims after rookie minicamp, and both could push Thomas for the No. 3 quarterback spot.
"It's as wide open as it can be," Arians said. "That's why I love having two practices (on separate fields), because like I've said in the past, you either expose yourself or get exposed. We'll see how it shakes out."
The Cardinals have five quarterbacks on the roster, with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton etched into the top two spots on the depth chart.
SHAUGHNESSY MOVES TO THE DEFENSIVE LINE
Matt Shaughnessy isn't the flashiest guy, but he's been a key run-stopping presence at outside linebacker the past two seasons. The Cardinals hope for more of the same in 2015, but this time it will come from defensive end.
Shaughnessy has been working with that group since offseason on-field work opened in the Phase 2 component. He remained there as OTAs started, while former defensive end Kareem Martin was at linebacker. Arians said Shaughnessy had trouble keeping his weight low enough to stay at linebacker, and that the defensive line is his more natural position.
"We can always stand him up in run defense if we want to do that," Arians said. "He gives us such good position flexibility. Get him inside and let him get back to his natural stuff."
ROOKIES MISS THE ACTION
Fifth-round draft pick Shaq Riddick was among three injured rookies who didn't participate in the OTA. He injured a hamstring last week but is expected back by next week at the latest, Arians said. Undrafted linebackers Alani Fua (foot) and Zack Wagenmann (foot) also missed the practice.
Undrafted rookie receiver Jaxon Shipley was finishing up schoolwork in Texas but was expected back Wednesday.