Now that we've gotten through the biggest stretch of training camp -- the Cards only briefly practice up here this week (they are off today) before heading right back down to the Valley to fly to the preseason opener in Pittsburgh Thursday. An ESPN game in a few days. As much as it seems like this has been a long time up here so far, it's hard to believe games are here again. It seems fairly recently we were climbing on that charter to fly to Tampa …
But we'll live in the now. So here are some of my thoughts thus far in camp, with the caveats that a) there have not been any games yet to use as an evaluation tool and b) these are generally my opinions (although shaped by the players and coaches I talk to every day) so take them for what they are worth:
-- It will be interesting to see how this offense shapes up and how much playing time the key members (O-line, Kurt Warner, Q, Fitz) actually get in the preseason. Fitz looks like usual, ready for a big year, and I have been impressed with Boldin's commitment to happiness – at least as far as we can see. Warner already said he was in a different place in camp since he doesn't have to fight for a job. The depth of talent on the offensive line will allow the starters to play less in the exhibitions. That's a good thing.
--Make no mistake that Boldin, even as he looks for happiness, still isn't happy. That's no surprise; his feelings have been hurt for a long time and that doesn't evaporate. But he clearly is going out of his way to repair his image between playing down his disagreement with the organization and his hours spent signing autographs (quick aside – the time he and Warner have put in to sign for the fans is unreal). If Fitz gets the kind of defensive attention this season we all expect, Boldin is in line to blow up.
-- Disappointed Beanie Wells got hurt. Yes, it's a freak accident. Anybody can get rolled up on, and Beanie was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But just like anyone who must go a little above and beyond when saddled with a certain reputation, many people want to see how Wells' year plays out and whether he can stay healthy. You can make a case for or against the injury issue with Beanie, but it was debatable when he was in college and that isn't going away when you are hurt in your first NFL practice.
-- On the flip side, Tim Hightower has this quiet, intense resolve to be good. I have said many times, that obviously doesn't guarantee success. But while Wells is trying to recover, Hightower is getting better – and stretching the distance between he and Beanie on the depth chart.
-- Considering a) you can't hit the QBs in practice and b) this offense is one of the better ones in the league, the defense in my opinion has looked good. It's early, etc., but the defensive backfield should be as improved as advertised, Darnell Dockett looks strong and the vibe about Calais Campbell right now is positive.
-- Oh, and remember Bertrand Berry's insistence he just wanted to rest this summer? Maybe Bertrand was right about himself. He's looked pretty good, and he's had to step in with the first unit with Chike Okeafor sitting a lot lately with his back problem. At one point, I had some people wonder to me if Berry – especially after missing the offseason stuff – could be released. I don't see it at all. He's well ahead of where third-stringer Cody Brown is right now, and he's not killing the salary cap ($1 million). If Berry can give them six or seven sacks, that's a bargain.
-- The Cards were good last year in part because they were healthy. Crossing fingers that won't be a problem this year. You worry about the status of a backup defensive lineman like Keilen Dykes (quad strain), and nose tackle Gabe Watson is battling tendinitis in his knee after surgery. Then there is Okeafor's back. The Cards need health especially in their defensive front seven. One other health note: I am think Warner might be wishing he didn't talk about his sore hip so much. I don't think he thinks it's going to be a big deal, but now that it's out there – and given he is a Pro Bowl quarterback – it's going to remain a story.
That's it for this loooong entry. Good showing at the Red and White practice yesterday from the team and the fans. But it's time to hang at home, at least for another 22 hours. I'll post an A-Dub story later today.