Unusually large crop of free agents opens Cardinals rookie mini-camp
TEMPE, Ariz. – Including defensive lineman Moubarak Djeri of the German Football League, the Cardinals brought 25 NFL rookie free agents to their rookie mini-camp, along with players on rookie tryouts.
That’s an unusually high number.
“We had high grades on a lot of these guys and they were sitting there,” coach Steve Wilks explained. “When you look at some of the depth at certain positions, particularly at wide receiver, that was one of the reasons why we brought some guys in, probably more than usual, and the same thing probably at the safety position.”
It’s no coincidence the Cardinals are thin at both of those positions Wilks mentioned. It doesn’t hurt to flood both with possibilities.
With all players wearing T-shirts and shorts and only one day behind them, Wilks was hesitant to form any judgments, but the highlights of the day included a long pass from first-round pick Josh Rosen to second-round pick Christian Kirk, and an interception by sixth-round pick Chris Campbell.
Rookie mini-camp runs Friday through Sunday at the team’s Tempe headquarters.
NON-ROOKIE IN ROOKIE CAMP
Wide receiver Greg Little was among the players on tryouts at rookie mini-camp on Friday. The Cleveland Browns selected Little in the second round (No. 59) of the 2011 NFL Draft. Little caught 155 passes in three seasons for Cleveland and scored eight touchdowns.
He caught six passes for Cincinnati in 2014. He was released by the Bengals on Oct. 31, 2015, signed a future contract with Buffalo on Aug. 30, 2016 and was later released by the Bills. He was out of the NFL the past two seasons and hasn’t played a game in three seasons.
“He was out there making some plays and he stood out a little bit,” Wilks said. “It was good to be able to get him out here. I know he’s excited about the opportunity that he has. Hopefully, he’ll continue to make the best of it throughout the weekend and we’ll see exactly what happens on Sunday.”
The Cardinals signed fullback Derrick Coleman to a one-year contract on Wednesday. Former coach Bruce Arians didn’t use a traditional fullback. Coleman spent last season with the Atlanta Falcons. He was with the Seattle Seahawks from 2012-15.
“Going against him in that division, in the (NFC) South, the guy has proven himself,” said Wilks, who was a Carolina assistant from 2012-17. “Within our system, a fullback is a part of that offense … that’s a major part of what we are doing.”
Coleman, who lost most of his hearing at age 3, is the first legally deaf offensive player in NFL history. Cardinals Senior Vice President of Media Relations Mark Dalton was asked Friday how the team would conduct interviews with Coleman. Dalton said Coleman reads lips so well that you can’t even tell he has a hearing disability.
Chris Campbell played safety in high school. He believes he can help the Cardinals with his versatility but for the moment, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Penn State product is competing in a crowded house at the cornerback spot.
“If you follow my history you know I like corners with a lot of length; guys that are long, physical, that can use those attributes, particularly at the line of scrimmage in bump and run,” Wilks said. “We can’t really do in this particular setting but he made a nice play today on the ball, the interception at the end of one-on-one period.”
After the interception, the coaches had to yell at Campbell to return the ball all the way to the end zone, which he subsequently did.
— Third-round pick Mason Cole lined up at center a lot on Friday, but Wilks said the Cardinals still view him as both a center and a guard. “That was the one thing that attracted us to him was just that position flexibility,” Wilks said.
— The Cardinals released Harlan Miller on Thursday, leaving little experience behind starters Budda Baker and Antoine Bethea. Wilks was asked if the team plans to add another veteran safety.
“I think right now, what we have on the roster is appealing to us as a staff,” Wilks said. “But I will say this: We’re going to continue to evolve and be aggressive in always trying to get the right mix. I told the guys today, ‘Nobody’s going to get complacent around here. It’s not a free lunch.’
“So we’re going to continue to work hard and we’re going to continue to find guys that are going to make us better. If that means bringing guys in and out, that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”