TEMPE, Ariz. — When the Arizona Cardinals tabbed tackle D.J. Humphries with the 24th overall selection in the draft, many assumed he would almost immediately slide into the starting lineup at right tackle.
But as the Cardinals begin their third and final week of Organized Team Activities, the rookie — who signed a four-year contract Monday — still has a ways to go before the job will be his.
These things, it would appear, take time, as last week head coach Bruce Arians said Humphries was coming along slowly.
“He needs to mature a little bit,” Arians said on May 26.
“That might just be a natural thing, me just trying to mature,” Humphries said Monday after the team began its third week of OTAs. “Being a young guy, I’m just trying to learn that you’ve got to focus all the time. Not like in college, where you can just kick back and relax when you’re not in. Even when you’re not in, you’ve got to be getting mental reps. I think that’s probably the main thing.”
It makes sense.
Humphries, 21, played in just 29 career games while at Florida, starting 19 of them. Though the 6-foot-5, 307-pound player is talented, he’s still raw. However, he would not say the last few weeks have been overwhelming.
“Because this is my job, know what I mean,” he said. “It’s definitely been a little hard, but it’s not anything I can’t handle. Over time I’m pretty sure I’ll pick it up.”
Given the depth Arizona has along the offensive line, with fourth-year pro Bobby Massie currently penciled in as the starting right tackle, there isn’t necessarily any kind of rush to get Humphries up to speed.
So when Arians says Humphries needs to mature, the comment does not so much come from a place of disappointment as much as one of acceptance.
“Sometimes it will take a year, but you’d like to see steady improvement in practice habits, work habits, weight room habits — all those things,” the coach said. “And he’s doing that.”
As Arians noted, Humphries is still a college kid and the NFL is a professional league.
“He’s figuring it out fast, though,” he said.
Humphries agrees with his coach, saying he is starting to get the playbook down. It’s now about working on his technique so that everything is more natural, enabling him to react instead of think.
Every rookie goes through it on some level, so in that regard, Humphries is not unique. Whether he’ll play his way into the starting lineup at some point this season remains to be seen, but until then, his plan is to learn as much as possible and be ready for when his number is called.
“A lot of learning defenses and learning I-formations and what I-formations do to the defense,” he said. “Overall just focusing throughout the whole practice. Not letting my brain relax.”