TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Coach Bruce Arians wrapped the Arizona Cardinals' minicamp with a brief workout on Thursday, then gave a good review to what he saw over the three days of practice and team meetings.
"I was really pleased that the intensity rose to the occasion," he said. "You could real feel the difference between an OTA and minicamp. The intensity of flying around, the attention to detail was much greater. It was less of a learning experience and more competitive, which you really want to see as a coach."
A year ago, quarterback Carson Palmer and the rest of the offense were trying to learn Arians' sophisticated system.
This year, the returnees know what they're doing.
"You're talking fine-tuning now," Arians said, although he said rookies were making too many mistakes.
Despite the loss of some important players from last season, particularly inside linebackers Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby, the players are full of optimism after going 10-6 in Arians' first year, just missing the playoffs.
"The standard was set from last season," said guard Jonathan Cooper, who is working his way back from a broken leg that caused him to miss all of his rookie campaign a year ago. "I feel like we can do some big things, as long as we're on the same page and, like B.A. says, Cardinals beating Cardinals. As long as we're not making silly penalties I think the guys feel like we have a great chance this season."
Tight end Rob Housler said the Cardinals "are ready to get this thing rolling."
"There's a lot of excitement on my end and just in the buzz in the locker room," he said. "It's because we're not feeling each other out. This time last year we were feeling each other out. There's no hesitation right now. It's 100 mph on the defensive end, offensive end, and you can really sense the urge to compete come training camp."
Like Arians, Palmer talked about the attitude of the players around him.
"It's really easy to kind of be stagnant and kind of be status quo this time of year," Palmer said on Wednesday, "but we've gotten better every day."
The Cardinals relied on a strong defense that might take a step back with the loss of Washington, who was suspended for a year for violating the NFL substance abuse policy, and Dansby, the team's leading tackler who left for Cleveland as a free agent. But Palmer believes the offense will take a big step forward and ease some pressure off the defense, which still is loaded with good players.
"I'm extremely happy where we are," Palmer said. "We have a long way to go but I couldn't be happier to see the growth from the film we watched in the offseason of us playing games and to see where we are now."
Now the Cardinals are off until training camp begins in Glendale in late July.
Going into training camp, there is intense competition for three spots on the offensive line - tight end, right tackle and right guard.
One of the tight ends, second-round pick Troy Niklas, broke his right hand in a freak accident, getting it tangled with his jersey, but is expected to be ready once training camp begins.
Housler said he welcomes the competition and is trying to help out the new players as they try to grasp Arians' system.
"It's my second minicamp with Bruce," Housler said, "and it definitely felt like my second minicamp with Bruce because I felt a lot more familiar with the system and being able to play fast. That's what I'm going to take away from this minicamp."
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