ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals rookie Budda Baker impresses in preseason debut

Aug 5, 2017, 12:44 PM | Updated: 10:23 pm
Cardinals safety Budda Baker covers Jaron Brown during a training camp practice Aug. 1. (Photo by A...
Cardinals safety Budda Baker covers Jaron Brown during a training camp practice Aug. 1. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The sooner Budda Baker shows he can contribute to Arizona’s defense, the better the Cardinals will be.

If Thursday’s preseason opener is any indication, the second-round pick may not be too far off.

Baker’s performance in the 20-18 loss to the Dallas Cowboys stood out, as he was credited with six total tackles along with one pass defensed and a QB hit. He was not perfect, but the versatile safety impressed the folks over at ProFootballFocus, and the TV combination of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth also had nice things to say.

“If there’s one guy that sort of stood out on the defensive side to me,” Collinsworth said, “it was Budda Baker tonight.”

Baker said he saw a lot of Snapchats from his friends pointing out that he was highlighted on the broadcast.

“They sent me that,” he said. “It was cool.”

On Saturday, following the team’s first practice since the Hall of Fame Game, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians highlighted Baker as someone who “played really fast.”

While not necessarily a surprise — the Cardinals did trade up in the second round to select the Washington product — Baker being able to perform like that after missing all of OTAs and minicamp was certainly welcome.

“Missing all of OTAs, he’s a really bright guy; he’s intense,” Arians said. “He’ll bust something when he’s going full speed, when he does it. I like his coverage ability.

“It’s a shame he missed all OTAs because he’d be way, way ahead of where he is right now. He’d be pressing some guys in that first group.”

Baker understands he would be further along had his school schedule not prohibited him from being with the Cardinals all offseason, and while he thinks about what could have been, he said, with a smile, that it’s all about taking things day-by-day.

Baker said he felt like he played “decent” Thursday, and did not get too amped up or nervous because it was just football.

“I just tried to think of it as football, I was just playing a game,” he added. “It was very exciting wearing the Cardinal red.”

The more Baker plays like this, the more likely people are to wonder what kind of impact he can make this season. Seen as a Tyrann Mathieu-type who can make plays all over the field from a variety of different positions, the 5-foot-10, 195-pound Baker would make the defense that much more dynamic, while also giving them a bit of depth and insurance.

But just because he could be very helpful does not mean the Cardinals will force him onto the field when he’s not ready.

“You can’t push it,” Arians said. “We’ve got veterans back there that we trust that are good players, so you can’t push him into the lineup if he ain’t ready, because that one mental error could cost you a game in the real season.”

Baker understands the thinking, but figures the more reps he gets, either in training camp or preseason games, the shorter his learning curve will be. He was pleased with his tackling Thursday, but regretted not blitzing off the edge on one play in which he felt he could have made a tackle for loss.

But for a first outing with minimal offseason work, the rookie did enough to make you believe he could be an impact player sooner rather than later.

“For me, I’m just trying to take it day-by-day, not trying to think about the future,” he said. “So if I get better day-by-day, once the regular season comes up I feel like I’ll be at my best.”

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Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, right, and Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talk before the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) A Dallas Cowboys fan watches the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys warm up for the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant stretches before the Cowboys played the Arizona Cardinals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches warm ups before the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert warms up for the team's Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore warms up before the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game between the Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals on Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore (17) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert (7) throws against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Arizona Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams carries the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore (17) hands off to running back Darren McFadden, during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett walks on the field before the team's Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, part of this year's class at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, puts his hand on his chest while standing on the sideline during the national anthem at the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game between the Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals  in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Arizona Cardinals tight end Ifeanyi Momah (80) makes a catch against the Dallas Cowboys for a first down during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians stands on the sideline during the first half of the team's Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Arizona Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (33) rushes past Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Damien Wilson (57) and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (33) on a 5-yard touchdown during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Dallas Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers (80) catches a 26-yard touchdown pass while defended by Arizona Cardinals safety Ironhead Gallon during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) celebrates his 3-yard touchdown run with quarterback Blaine Gabbert during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Former NFL player Warren Sapp laughs while walking on the field before the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Dallas Cowboys' Keith Smith returns an Arizona Cardinals kickoff during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert loses his balance while being sacked during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard) Dallas Cowboys fullback Keith Smith (41) runs away from Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Scooby Wright (58) during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers (80) celebrates with wide receiver Andy Jones (81) and running back Darren McFadden (20) after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert (7) throws against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys' Sam Irwin-Hill (2) kicks a field goal out of the hold by Luke McCown (3) against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett gestures during the second half of the team's Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Dallas won 20-18. (AP Photo/David Richard) 
              Dallas Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers (80) catches a 26-yard touchdown pass while defended by Arizona Cardinals safety Ironhead Gallon during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/David Richard)
            Cardinals RB T.J. Logan waits during an OTA practice May 16. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Former St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, left, greets Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald before the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Warner is to be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this month. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, right, is greeted by Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (5), outside linebacker Sean Lee (50) and tight end Jason Witten before the Cowboys played the Arizona Cardinals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Jones is to be inducted into the hall later this month. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys running back Rod Smith (45) holds off Arizona Cardinals linebacker Zaviar Gooden (52) during the first half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett watches his team during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals in the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush (7) dives for a first down in front of Arizona Cardinals cornerback Rudy Ford (30) during the second half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Dallas won 20-18. (AP Photo/David Richard) Dallas Cowboys linebacker Kennan Gilchrist (48) and safety Xavier Woods celebrate after a missed field goal by the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Dallas won 20-18. (AP Photo/David Richard) Arizona Cardinals defensive back Jarell Carter breaks up a pass intended for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Andy Jones during the second half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The Cowboys defeated the Cardinals 20-18. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Dallas Cowboys running back Ronnie Hillman (37) carries against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The Cowboys defeated the Cardinals 20-18. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini (65) tackles Dallas Cowboys running back Rod Smith (45) during the second half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The Cowboys defeated the Cardinals 20-18. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Members of the Dallas Cowboys defensive line leap as Arizona Cardinals' Matt Wile, at left edge, missed a field-goal attempt during the second half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Dallas won 20-18. (AP Photo/David Richard) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Trevor Knight looks to throw against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game in Canton, Ohio, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The Cowboys defeated the Cardinals 20-18. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

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