Rucker: Nkemdiche ‘determined to prove a lot of people wrong’
After the departure of Calais Campbell to Jacksonville, the Cardinals’ defensive line not only lost his eight sacks from last season, but also the face of their unit.
Now, the line seems to be filled with up-and-comers that have a world of potential in front of them, but not much production under their belt.
“I think we’ll be a very aggressive unit, you know we keep bringing up Calais as in if before Calais played for the Cardinals no one else was there before,” Cardinals DE Frostee Rucker told Bickley and Marotta on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station Wednesday. “No one can replace Calais on and off the field for what he did for community here, for what he did on the football field, but I think it’s time for guys to make a name for themselves.”
One of those guys ready to make a name for himself is Robert Nkemdiche.
To say his rookie season was a disappointment would be an understatement. The 2016 first-round pick was hampered with an ankle injury during camp, but it was his mistakes and subpar practice performance that only saw him play in five games without recording a tackle.
“He’ll be where he’s supposed to be,” Rucker said. “Robert put a lot of work in, I would say maturing coming into the spring and I’m really excited to see how he is at camp you know because he was limited last year with camp and I think that derailed his whole promising season as a rookie.
“You know we really couldn’t count on him because he didn’t really get the reps, and training camp reps are a lot different than spring reps and for him last year and obviously being a rookie, you just come into training camp and he got hurt immediately and the rest is a domino effect.”
Maturity was a big concern surrounding Nkemdiche coming out of Ole Miss. During his senior season he was charged with possession of marijuana after falling out of a 4th story hotel window.
But it was his talent that made the Cardinals draft him in 30th overall in 2016, and Rucker believes that it will be his talent that proves people wrong.
“The kid is very explosive, I would say very explosive and has a knack for making a play, the thing about it is just being consistent and people knowing that even if you take a chance on the play and not being exactly where you need to be, you make the play. . . It’s a trust factor of being able to play and take these reps in the summer to be like ‘OK, if we get this formation, Rob might do this, even though he’s supposed to do this, but I got to be here.’ So we have to be able to play off of each other and again I think Robert’s explosiveness, his knack to make a play and I think he is very determined to prove a lot of people wrong.
“You know because a lot of people were down on him because he came in, first-round pick and didn’t get to contribute the way everyone would like to see, it was a lot of hype coming in for him and he’s ready to make a name for himself.”