TEMPE, Ariz. — If nothing else, you know Scooby Wright is going to bring effort to the table.
A seventh-round pick in the 2016 draft by the Cleveland Browns, he arrived in Arizona last December and immediately made his mark.
“He came in here last year and he helped fix our special teams because he’s dynamite covering,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Thursday following an OTA practice. “He got to where the guys watched him cover; that’s always a fun thing when the sidelines say, ‘Hey, watch Scooby’ and he’d go down and blow some stuff up.
“He’s playing extremely well at linebacker and he’s one of those guys that I have to say ‘Woah’ to because he’s going full tilt.”
In three games with the Cardinals, Wright notched one special teams tackle and one assisted tackle. Now in his first offseason with the team, he is getting a chance to do even more especially because linebacker Deone Bucannon is out following ankle surgery. That has led to Wright seeing action as part of the defense as well as special teams.
“The more reps you have the more practice you get, the more practice you get the sharper your sword is,” Wright said.
The more Wright has been on the field, the more everyone has had a chance to see the playing style that helped him become one of the most feared defensive players in the country as a sophomore at the University of Arizona.
That year, he racked up 164 tackles with 31 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and five forced fumbles as he was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year as well as winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award, Chuck Bednarik Award and Jack Lambert Award.
Unfortunately for Wright, injuries limited him the following season, and a less-than-inspiring performance at the Combine led to him slipping all the way down to pick No. 250 overall.
There was a total of 253 players selected.
Wright admitted there is and likely always will be a bit of a chip on his shoulder — his Twitter handle is @TwoStarScoob after he was lightly recruited out of high school — but he focuses solely on doing what his coaches ask of him and playing hard.
“I was always taught when I played as a little kid, and now, anytime you’re on the field you want to try to make every play that’s possible, so might as well go try to run it down,” he said.
Wright’s all-out-all-the-time mentality is one he enjoys, in large part because he believes there is no reason not to approach things that way. It has served him especially well on special teams, where he said he last played in high school before getting to the NFL.
“That was probably the biggest adjustment coming into the NFL,” he said. “I haven’t played special teams since senior year of high school.
“I was returning kicks the last time I played special teams, so it’s a little different.”
Wright said he took a couple back for touchdowns as a prep player, but smiled while saying returning is obviously not a role he will fill now.
It goes without saying he would like to do even more than that, however, which is why this offseason is so key for his career. When opportunity meets effort good things can happen, though Wright understands there are times he may need to tone things down just a little bit.
“Obviously you don’t have pads on, you kind of got to be a little smarter individual out there, you can’t be hurting teammates and such,” he said. “It’s kind of a fine line you’ve got to kind of cross and not go too hard, but be smart.”
That’s not to say collisions will not happen — “that’s just playing ball, a part of it,” he said — and for a player in Wright’s shoes, one who is battling to make a roster, he really cannot afford to take any plays off.
There is still too much left to prove for the 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker whose sub-par measurables nearly led to him not being drafted at all.
But so far, so good.
“He’s a football player, he’s a football player,” Arians said. “A lot of times that chart that says what a football player is, it doesn’t compute. He’s a football player.”
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