Cardinals’ Steve Wilks not concerned with showing too much in preseason
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The preseason is finally here.
For an Arizona Cardinals team hosting the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday, it’s about more than an opportunity to start hitting another team.
It’s the beginning of a new era for the Cardinals in a lot of ways. This is the first game as an NFL head coach for Steve Wilks. And it’s the fans’ first chance to see how he approaches live game action — even if he’ll be walking that fine line of attacking without giving away too many secrets in August.
“Everybody talks about what you should show, what not,” Wilks said Thursday. “There’s certain things you don’t want to show, but they’re going to get the film eventually. So do you hurt yourself by not working on that? I’ve never been a guy like that, you know? We line up, we play as 11-on-11, we’ve got to stop them. So I want to make sure that we’re efficient in doing things we have to do from a game operation standpoint, not just doing them in practice.
“There’s some things that you don’t want to reveal but for the most part you’re going to run your offense, you’re going to run your defense, you’re going to execute special teams.”
A number of key positions to keep an eye on have already emerged, beginning with the annual search for a corner opposite Patrick Peterson. Wilks said he’s hopeful players like Jamar Taylor and Brandon Williams get a lot of passes thrown at them this weekend, so they get the opportunity to make plays and show the new coaching staff what they’re capable of.
The second receiver spot behind Larry Fitzgerald is a hotly contested role right now as well, with Brice Butler, Chad Williams, Christian Kirk, Greg Little and J.J. Nelson all vying for snaps.
And then there’s center, where A.Q. Shipley’s season-ending injury has thrust rookie Mason Cole right into the spotlight.
Beyond that, the team’s linebacker depth – already a concern before camp even began – will be tested this weekend with Deone Bucannon and Josh Bynes expected to sit out on Saturday due to minor injuries. On the bright side, that gives Wilks and his staff a chance to get a clean look at what options they have behind them.
Saturday also marks the start of the Sam Bradford Era in Arizona — and the beginning of Josh Rosen’s career. Wilks has indicated he’ll use Bradford sparingly in the preseason, though Bradford did say earlier this week he still sees the benefits of getting some reps in the exhibition contests, especially since he missed nearly all of 2017.
Wilks said all four quarterbacks will play Saturday. When asked specifically about Rosen’s Thursday comments on the 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf suggesting he might still be mad that three other quarterbacks were drafted before him, Wilks opted to look forward.
“I didn’t know he said that and, you know, it’s time for us to move on,” the coach said. “He’s here, he’s a Cardinal, we love him. He’s going to be here for a long time and he’s going to help us win a lot of football games. That’s my take. He’s a young man, a grown man and he can have his own feelings and if that edge is going to keep him going, that’s great. But to me, again, I love where he is and I’m glad he’s a part of our team.”
To be fair, that’s the tone Rosen took on the show.
“It’s always going to be noted in my head that three GMs made a very poor mistake, but I’m happy they did,” the rookie quarterback told Doug & Wolf on Thursday morning. “I am very satisfied with where I am. I get to play with two Hall of Famers and hopefully a couple more. I have a great coach who came from (coaching) Peyton (Manning) and Philip (Rivers) and I get to learn behind Sam. I think I landed in the best situation of any quarterback in the draft.”
– Wilks said defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is just dealing with “a little tendinitis” and is fine after he left Thursday practice. As far as the injuries at linebacker, Wilks didn’t want to give an exact timetable but said the team is “looking for maybe one day next week” as far as a Bucannon return from a knee injury. It will likely be longer for Bynes, who is dealing with a neck issue, though Wilks stressed he didn’t think that was too serious. Bucannon and Bynes sat out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
– When asked how he would improve the infamous helmet rule that the league is focusing on this preseason, Antoine Bethea had a simple solution:
“Oh throw the rule out of there,” he laughed. “Because it’s garbage.”
He went on to acknowledge there are some blatant plays that need to be called, but he reiterated the game moves fast and it’s going to take a while for all the officials to interpret the rules the same way.