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‘Disruptive’ Robert Nkemdiche makes an impact in win over Raiders

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Everything that happens in preseason must be noted with an asterisk, but what Robert Nkemdiche has done through two games has warranted some attention.

The second-year pro, who was a non-factor as a rookie in 2016, has performed well in two outings, seeming to validate the quality play he has displayed during training camp practices.

In Arizona’s 20-10 win over the Oakland Raiders at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday, the defensive lineman was a force, finding his way into the backfield while also working his way down the line for tackles.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he could not give a full report or grade on linemen in the game, needing to check out the tape to get a true idea of how the guys in the trenches fared.

Yet, he noticed Nkemdiche.

“He was disruptive — I saw him in the backfield a few times,” Arians said.

In the end, Nkemdiche was credited with three total tackles, solid numbers in a limited amount of work.

“I feel like I was getting off and shedding blocks and trying to be as disruptive as possible,” Nkemdiche said of his outing.

The tone surrounding Nkemdiche could not be more different this season compared to last, when most of the questions revolved around him not playing or, when he was on the field, failing to make an impact.

The given reasons for his struggles varied, with his maturity being questioned while he battled an ankle injury, but as of now his arrow appears to be pointing up.

Not surprisingly, this is more enjoyable.

“It’s fun, honestly,” he said. “Healthy and I just feel like I can do what I need to do and keep improving.”

Nkemdiche said being healthy is huge, because “when you’re playing with a bum tire you can’t really roll like you want to, but when you’re healed and you can go, you’re more confident in what you can do, physically and mentally.”

He looks like a different player, though that’s not to say he does not see room for improvement. While getting into the backfield on running plays was great, Nkemdiche said he would like to improve at getting to the quarterback, working through the rush lanes.

“Just playing with my hands and consistently doing what you’re asked on the defense,” he said. “Just playing more monotonous and doing the little things right.”

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Phillips Law Group


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