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The Early Returns Of The Red-White

In front of record crowd, defense dominates in "barometer"


Defensive backs A.J. Jefferson and James Sanders break up a pass in the end zone for tight end Rob Housler during Saturday's Red-White practice.

FLAGSTAFF – Larry Fitzgerald was disappointed.

The offense struggled in Saturday's Red-White practice, leaving the Cards' wide receiver lamenting a lack of execution.

"We were running our base offense, something we ought to be able to do in our sleep," Fitzgerald said.

In front of an estimated record crowd of 14,500, the defense dominated most of the day – not a surprise, since the defense should be the Cardinals' driving force – but that wasn't good enough for defensive lineman Darnell Dockett either, after the offense managed a pair of touchdowns in the goalline work.

"I think everyone on the defense was a little disappointed today," Dockett said. "We expect to dominate every time we come out."

Coach Ken Whisenhunt could only shrug his shoulders. "I don't see how you make both sides happy."

Even with Dockett's thoughts, the defense clearly came out ahead. The Cardinals had only been in camp three full days before the Red-White work, a much shorter time frame than usual, and Whisenhunt acknowledged that "you are going to be a little bit sloppy at times and I thought we were that way offensively."

Not much was gleaned toward the starting quarterback battle between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb. The two took the vast majority of the snaps, with Rich Bartel and Ryan Lindley getting just one series each of the 14 series run on the afternoon. The only touchdown came on a 14-yard pass from Kolb to tight end Rob Housler, although it was converted on a drive in which Whisenhunt instructed the officials to "give" the offense a first down after they had come up short on third down.

Kolb also threw a pair of interceptions, one grabbed by linebacker Reggie Walker and the other by safety Larry Parker.

"It all comes out of my hands, so (the interceptions) are ultimately on me," Kolb said, adding, "Offensively, as a whole, we didn't do real well but there are things to build on."

Skelton, who called his day personally "up and down," noted that the first incompletion of the day – when Fitzgerald was open deep and Skelton's pass was overthrown –was a play that was just discussed Friday night and didn't have the right timing yet. Skelton was also pressured on the play.

"Just gives us a barometer of where we are," Skelton said. "We have a long ways to go. We've only had four days of real installs. We have a lot more camp."

Running back Ryan Williams looked impressive on a 44-yard run and took a few hits on his repaired right leg with no problems. But Whisenhunt said there were too many dropped balls, and the second- and third-units offensively had mental and technique mistakes, he said.

It was hard to see how the defense wouldn't be happy, but Dockett called it "not to our standards," pointing to a pair of touchdowns allowed in the live goal-line work.

"We're all confident," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "We're all on the same wavelength."

There was no joy in seeing the offense sputter in attempts to reach the end zone, however. As Whisenhunt said, both sides can't be happy, and in the end, both sides need success when the opponents become real.

"We want to push the offense as much as we can," safety Adrian Wilson said. "But the Cardinals aren't on the schedule."

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