GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Training camp 2014 is over and a lot was discovered during the past 27 days.
Jobs were established, roster spots were lost, dreams were dashed. Camp ended with a major injury and a few serious comebacks. But what else did we learn during the Arizona Cardinals' training camp? Glad you asked.
The offense really is light years ahead of where it was last year. Just watch the first two preseason games. The Cardinals were as efficient as they’ve been in some time, but that wasn’t just a show for the cameras. During practice, Arizona moved the ball with ease despite a defense knowing exactly what was coming most of the time. When Carson Palmer faced the scout defense this week, he looked almost flawless, using his battery of weapons to his advantage. What stood out most, however, was that the formation issues that plagued them last year were gone. This was an offense that knew what it was doing.
John Brown is the real deal. He still hasn’t gone against a live defense for an entire game but from what we’ve seen out of Brown, he’s as fast with pads on than without them. The Cardinals are trying to temper their expectations of Brown, but it’s tough. He’s lived up to the hype.
Left guard is the biggest concern on the offensive line. Heading into camp, 80 percent of the line was supposed to be set in stone, with right tackle being the only question mark. But Jonathan Cooper struggled all camp to overcome the mental and physical hurdles he’s facing after a year away from football, and now he's hampered by turf toe. Earl Watford had a chance to win the job but couldn’t, so it's Ted Larsen turn.
Frostee Rucker can replace Darnell Dockett. Dockett is out for the season with a torn ACL but his replacement is more than suitable. Rucker had a very good camp and the veteran has looked strong off the ball this week.
Sam Acho and Alex Okafor are back. Both linebackers were injured in Week 3 of last season but both have come back looking quicker and stronger than in 2013. They’ll be part of the rotation at outside linebacker and have showed throughout camp that they can still get to the quarterback.
Antonio Cromartie's hip is just fine. He’s made some SportsCenter-worthy plays in camp, proving the hip flexor that hampered him last season won’t be an issue this season. He’s also been consistent in his coverage.
Inside linebacker will be a work in progress. It was already going to be a project to replace Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby with a second-year player who played one snap last year in Kevin Minter and a veteran free agent, Larry Foote. But with Minter’s pectoral injury having sidelined him for more than a week, Kenny Demens has been thrust into the starting lineup as his replacement, leaving a lack of depth which caused Arizona to sign veteran Desmond Bishop, who has played just four games in the last two seasons.
Jaron Brown has what it takes to make this team. He played in all 16 games last season and had 11 catches for 140 yards. He might top his 2013 yardage in a game or two this season if his performance in camp is any indication. He’s quicker and more explosive than he was last season, and Brown has been making tough jump-ball catches, which will always put him in good graces with the coaching staff.
Bobby Massie isn't an issue anymore. It doesn’t matter when everything clicked for Massie, but it did, and for that the Cardinals are grateful. He earned the starting right tackle job during offseason workouts and has held on to it throughout camp. When an offensive lineman’s name doesn’t come up in conversation that’s a good thing, and you’ve hardly heard about Massie.
Tony Jefferson won't give up his job easily. That chip on Jefferson’s shoulder from not being drafted last season is still firmly planted there. With Tyrann Mathieu returning from injury this week, Jefferson has been playing at a high-enough level that’ll make it tough for the Cardinals’ to simply cast him aside for Mathieu. He’s playing fast and has been getting his hands on a lot of passes during camp. While Mathieu continues to work toward playing again, Jefferson is a solid option for the Cards at free safety.