TEMPE, Ariz. — With $LB Deone Bucannon out until perhaps Week 1 following ankle surgery, first-round pick Haason Reddick has slid into the starting lineup as the “next man up.”
After him, however, the picture is a bit more cloudy, but one player who figures to get an uptick in reps with Bucannon sidelined is second-year pro Scooby Wright.
“It always sucks when a guy gets injured and a guy has surgery, but as I always say, I’m just here to do my job and just work and do what I’m asked to do,” Wright said. “And do it with lots of intensity and with passion.”
Signed by Arizona in December off of the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad, the former University of Arizona Wildcat appeared in three games for the Cardinals, collecting one assisted tackle and one special teams stop.
For Wright, the chance to have an entire offseason with the Cardinals is a good thing.
“I actually have a chance to understand the defense,” he said. “I mean, my first year in the NFL was kind of an up-and-down year, my rookie year, so I mean coming to a place where it feels like home and just kind of learning the system as best I can.
“I just come here to work; that’s all I really came here to do. Just learn the defense and go perform.”
A winner of most major defensive awards in 2014 when he collected 164 tackles with 31 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and five forced fumbles for the Wildcats, the situation he is in now appears to be a good one for the linebacker. While he is not in the starting lineup, the chance to show he belongs is one he is not taking lightly.
“Being a seventh-round pick, you don’t really have many opportunities so you kind of got to earn those and kind of take your keep as it comes,” he said. “I’m just going with my opportunities when I get them.”
The idea that Andre Ellington can transition from running back to receiver makes sense in that yes, the fifth-year pro has shown great ability catching passes out of the backfield.
But it’s not as simple as changing his place on the depth chart for a player who in his career has caught 112 passes for 999 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s going pretty good,” Ellington said of the move. “It was a slight adjustment — the terminology is something I’m having to pick up on — but for the most part, it’s night and day.”
Ellington said he is more familiar with the concepts he is trying to learn because he did get some work at the position late last season, but getting on the field and lining up at receiver with his teammates allows him to get a better feel for the big picture as opposed to just his specific responsibility.
That is all part of the learning process for a player who admits there is a difference between being a running back who can catch passes and a receiver who lines up out wide and runs different routes.
“But I felt like I could do it,” he said. “Even being a running back I was able to run routes; coming into the league I had a skill set at that.
“But just being able to get out there now and run it at a high level, it’s been fun.”
When asked if he may eventually return to running back, Ellington said as of now he is not sure. His focus is on receiver, though, learning that position in hopes that once the season starts he will be able to help wherever the team needs him.
“I just want to get on the field,” he said. “But as running backs here, you do a lot of that same stuff, anyway.”
Sliding right in
The Cardinals suffered some defections in their secondary, and one of the players expected to step in and mitigate the losses is veteran safety Antoine Bethea.
“I’m loving it,” he said of being with the Cardinals. “I was with B.A. for a year in Indy, and I’m familiar with him. But other than that, I’m glad to be here. The guys in the locker room have welcomed me and I’m just ready to get it going.”
Bethea spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, with his final coming in 2013 — when Arians took over for Chuck Pagano as interim coach.
He then went to San Francisco, and last season recorded 110 total tackles along with one interception and three passes defensed. A three-time Pro Bowler who most recently earned the honor in 2014, he comes in with an ability to lead but no desire to just assume that role.
“It’s nothing that’s going to be forced,” he said. “You have a lot of guys in the secondary that’s been here, that’s played a lot of good ball, so for me, just come in and just play my part.
“Don’t force anything. If there’s something that needs to be said I can say it, but a lot of times just go out here and do what we do and come together as a unit.”
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