Rain returned to northern Arizona on Sunday, forcing day two of Cardinals training camp to be held inside Northern Arizona University’s Walkup Skydome. Cardinal fans filled the bleachers, happy to take in a practice on opening weekend from a comfortable, dry, and seated position. Most fans were buzzing about the emerging quarterback battle, and they were treated to a competitive practice with highs and lows for both Derek Anderson and starter Matt Leinart.
During fan friendly quarterback drills, Leinart and Anderson, along with rookies Max Hall and John Skelton, took turns tossing passes at an empty trashcan. Anderson struck pay dirt first, prompting a big response from the crowd. Leinart took a few more attempts before hitting home, while Hall and Skelton missed the mark entirely. During wideout drills, Anderson completed a pass underneath to a well covered Larry Fitzgerald, and would have connected on a beautifully thrown bomb over the middle, but Steve Breaston dropped the pass at the goal line.
Meanwhile, Leinart completed long passes to Breaston and Early Doucet, as well as connecting with Fitzgerald on several throws underneath. Skelton outperformed fellow rookie Hall for the second straight day, completing nicely thrown passes to WR’s Darren Mougey and Stephen Williams. Hall looked overwhelmed again, throwing a pass that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should have picked off, having one deflected at the line of scrimmage, and fumbling a snap that was recovered by DT Keilen Dykes.
RB Beanie Wells looked impressive and powerful once again on Sunday, breaking three nice runs against the full defense. Wells twice broke through the line, bounced outside, and streaked up the sideline. Towards the end of practice he took a handoff up the gut for a nice gain. Leinart connected with RB Tim Hightower on a short pass underneath, suggesting a balanced backfield attack that featuring Wells pounding the ball and Hightower rolling out for screens, blocking, and misdirecting opposing defenses. Hightower fumbled once and caught another pass from Skelton.
With the opening weekend of training camp coming to a close, Leinart finally stepped up during the final sequence of the practice. Facing heavy pressure, Leinart stepped out of the pocket and rolled left, checking off his wideouts and eventually dumping the ball off underneath to FB Nehemiah Broughton. Broughton made the catch and thundered up field for ten yards or so. While not the prettiest play or throw of the day, seeing Leinart manage the offense under pressure without making a mistake is more encouraging than seeing him complete a long pass. If Leinart can continue to be a leader and improve his decision making, Anderson will have to make some very impressive throws to supplant him as the starter at quarterback.
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