Offseason work is always a tricky time for analysis. There's nothing else to talk about in the days of non-contact and no pads. Heck, even coach Bruce Arians made that clear as he gathered the team together for a huddle at the close of the final minicamp practice.
"There are no decisions or judgments made on anybody on this team right now," Arians told the players. "All those judgments will come later. You may be listed in a spot right now, third or first. It don't matter. We haven't played football yet."
Still, after a handful of Phase 2 workouts, 10 organized team activities and three minicamp practices (OK, so the third one was abbreviated), there were some things that stuck out to me through what was seen on the field and what was said off it.
-- THERE IS A CONFIDENCE IN THE OFFENSE. Last year you could hear it in Carson Palmer's voice especially, a pump-the-brakes feel when he talked about Arians' scheme and the team grasping its responsibilities. Perhaps more than any other player in the locker room, Palmer isn't willing to dress up a situation just to do it. He won't start harshly criticizing anything, but you can hear the reticence. That concern was gone this offseason. Palmer isn't declaring the Cardinals an offensive juggernaut. But there is a comfort level in what Arians does and the people he has doing it.
-- JOHN CARLSON LOOKS VERY, VERY GOOD. The veteran tight end hasn't put on pads. And in the end, his career has been less about an inability to perform as much as the injuries that have stopped him from performing. But as a receiver, he's more impressive that I expected. Blocking is a big part of the job, and that's a pads thing, but if Carlson is healthy, they could have a find there.
-- BOBBY MASSIE IS GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. Massie will be with the first unit to start camp. The Cardinals aren't going to stop looking for roster upgrades. But Massie might just be ready to take that step the team hoped he will take. Bottom line, when you look at Massie and right guard Earl Watford, you see two guys that a) looked drawn up specifically to be good offensive linemen and b) were drafted to be the young, good offensive linemen every team needs to offset an expensive left tackle like a Jared Veldheer. Watford is still trying to earn his way although he's a guy the Cards would love to see take the step forward. I think the Cardinals want constant pressure on Massie to make sure he continues to push forward. But he's gotten much better with the mental part of the game, and him winning the job is the best scenario for both him and the team.
-- MICHAEL FLOYD IS QUIETLY SETTING UP AN EXCELLENT SEASON. Floyd has gotten constant praise from coaches. He's never going to be a big talker – I joked with him last year that sometime down the road, he was going to inherit the weekly Larry Fitzgerald media scrum, and while he smiled, I think he'd prefer a root canal – but his play is going to dictate more and more attention.
-- JOHN BROWN MAY OR MAY NOT BE T.Y. HILTON, BUT HE'LL MAKE AN IMPACT. The rookie was compared to both Hilton, the Colts' wideout, and Antonio Brown, the Steelers' wideout, by Arians when he was drafted. And he looked solid all through the offseason. He did make mistakes sometimes, and there were multiple times when Palmer took Brown aside for a teaching moment. The quarterback doesn't make that kind of effort unless Brown is going to play a role in what he is doing.
-- ANTONIO CROMARTIE LOOKS HEALTHY. I know he told me training camp, with pads and contact, will be a better test. But the veteran cornerback looks fine to me and an excellent complement to Patrick Peterson.
-- THERE WILL BE SOME INTERESTING CHOICES FOR PLAYING TIME IN THE SECONDARY. Once Tyrann Mathieu comes back and Deone Bucannon settles in, the Cardinals will have a host of defensive backs that all could make an argument for time. Tony Jefferson has definitely made inroads for a role and had a good offseason. Justin Bethel could be in the mix, but with Cromartie, Peterson, Mathieu and Jerraud Powers, I'm not sure how easy it will be to crack the lineup.
-- IT'S HARD TO TELL WHERE THE CARDS ARE AT LINEBACKER. John Abraham missed almost all the workouts either because of illness or just resting. Alex Okafor needs to have live game action, as does new defensive playcaller Kevin Minter. I think Minter will be fine in the lineup, although it would have been an easier transition had Daryl Washington been next to him.
-- LOGAN THOMAS IS EXACTLY AS EXPECTED. He's got a giant arm and looks the part of a superstar. But he's learning the offense and is inconsistent. It's still hard to believe he isn't on this team come September but everyone involved continues to insist Ryan Lindley can earn a spot. It will be intriguing to watch Thomas' progress and his play in preseason games.
The Cardinals take the field for their first minicamp practice of 2014