Cardinals' defense dominates

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Defense is supposed to be the strength of the Arizona Cardinals, and it sure looked that way as the team wrapped up its first week of training camp with the annual Red and White practice.

A record crowd estimated at 14,500 watched the controlled scrimmage, where quarterbacks John Skelton and Kevin Kolb split time with the first team.

Kolb had the only touchdown pass of the Saturday session but also threw two interceptions. Skelton was not intercepted.

Second-year running back Ryan Williams, who missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury, reeled off a 43-yard run and first-round draft pick Michael Floyd had several nice catches.

The team had only practiced since Wednesday, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn't think that was much of an excuse for the offense's performance.

"I thought we definitely could have executed better," he said. "That falls on us as players. This is the first week of camp. We're running our base offense. This is stuff we should be able to do in our sleep. There's nobody to blame but the 11 of us breaking the huddle."

The team has Sunday off, then resumes workouts. There will be daily practices in the rarified atmosphere of Flagstaff (elevation 7,000 feet) through Friday before the team leaves to play New Orleans on Aug. 6 in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt, not surprisingly, said the Saturday practice was not a significant factor in the competition for starting quarterback.

"We've said this process is going to be one that goes over time," he said. "Kevin was the guy that had the second spot in the rotation today so he was playing with the No. 2 line a lot. In fact, we had a center in there that hadn't taken any snaps because we had one go down in practice yesterday. We had some protection issues where he didn't get a chance to sit in there but he had some dropped balls, too. It's kind of hard to evaluate it. That's why you don't make snap judgments when you're doing this with the quarterbacks."

Kolb, heckled a bit by a few in the crowd, was picked off once by linebacker Reggie Walker and again by rookie Larry Parker. Kolb's TD pass went to second-year tight end Rob Housler.

"It all comes out of my hands so it's ultimately on me," he said of the two picks. "That's the way I'll approach it and look at it and move forward."

Kolb said he is "really impressed" with Floyd.

"The way he's picked up the offense, the way he works and his feel for the game," Kolb said. "I think the guy's really going to be a gamer."

Skelton didn't have any passes picked off, but there were several off target, including one early when he overthrew Fitzgerald on a deep ball.

"There were some throws that I made and there were some throws that I should have made that I didn't," Skelton said. "I think as far as commanding the huddle, I felt comfortable in there with the ones and everything."

Williams has already had an impressive camp, although Patrick Peterson insisted the young running back should have been called down in the backfield nullifying his big run. There is no full-scale hitting allowed in the scrimmage and Peterson said he had "touched" Williams down.

To which the unflappable Williams said, "I've never seen a tackle (made) being swiped at the ball. Call it what you want."

The defense was largely responsible for the Cardinals' strong finish a year ago, when the team won seven of its last nine. With starters back at all but one position, there is no doubt that it is the most self-assured aspect of the young camp.

"We're all confident," safety Kerry Rhodes said, "moving fast, at the same pace, on the same wavelength for the most part. That's what it takes to be successful as a defense. Then you see the good mentality that we bring in, with everybody coming up and bringing some wood. It's just part of being an intimidating force."