Arizona Cardinals training camp: All-Access with Bruce Arians, Aug. 23
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Head coach Bruce Arians, now in his fifth year with the Arizona Cardinals, meets the media each day during training camp.
Here, in this space, we’ll highlight many of the key topics and personnel conversations he has with reporters following the morning walk-through.
“OK, the only injury yesterday was Robert (Nkemdiche) strained a calf. He’ll be day-to-day. We’ll see how long it takes. He’ll be a boot for a minute. He won’t play this week, for sure. We won’t take any risk with that. (Mike) Iupati will not play this week. We will not take a risk with that either. Those are the only two guys in the last few days. Everybody else is getting healthy.
“Really, really solid practice yesterday; maybe the best one we’ve had. It’s hard to get good pictures out of your show teams but they were—it was one of those days you say, ‘Whoa! Slow down a little bit.’ That was nice.”
What else specifically did you like about the practice?
“Well, the speed. It sounded like football practice. A lot of times when you use cards it doesn’t sound like football practice, but there were some good collisions. Just the speed of practice. Guys got hands on balls. They’ve been studying film already. When you see that second practice against a team—the first day, they should complete a lot of balls because it’s all new. Second day we should starting to get our hands on balls. Third day is more as we see and prepare.”
With the momentum Nkemdiche had, how big of a setback is this?
“It shouldn’t be much. He wouldn’t play next week anyway. He’d miss a half of this game, so it shouldn’t set him back hardly at all.”
When you first saw Kerwynn Williams, what made you think he’d be good in his role?
“I didn’t know him until we got our hands on him and all of a sudden we couldn’t touch him in practice. He was on the practice squad. It was like, ‘Were you trying to tackle him? Hell yeah I was trying to tackle him. I missed him.’ Ok, let’s find out if this is real and it turned out to be. When he got his opportunity he was an outstanding player. They come in all sizes. He’s one of those strong small guys that’s hard to tackle.”
Why didn’t he practice yesterday?
“He got stepped on. Just got a real sore foot.”
Are you surprised he’s so good on punt returns?
“That always surprises you. Whoever comes out of nowhere as a punt returner was always a surprise. You see guys do it in college but a guy who hasn’t done it in awhile, the ability to catch left footed punters, right footed punters and gain yards is rare.”
Are either of your two punters separating themselves?
“Not really. They’re still—day-to-day it’s one versus the other. I’d like to see one of them separate themselves, yeah.”
What do you hope to see out of the offensive line this week against the Falcons?
“Pass protection because we struggled against them last year, handling their twists and their stunts. That will be the biggest thing. Again, stunting and run-blocking will take a little time as the game goes on and probably by the time they figure it out I’ll take them out so I don’t put a lot of stock in it but pass protection I do.”
The Falcons have some good speed, too, will that be a test for your defense?
“Yeah. This is a heck of an offense. Matt (Ryan) is planning probably as good as anybody in the league. They got weapons, so yeah this will be a really good test for offense, defense and special teams.”
How much stock do you put into training camp and preseason in trying to determine how good your offense can be?
“Very little. Training camp and preseason is about evaluating players. It’s not about where your offense is, where your defense is because you can’t—they’re not out there unless you watch practice every day and even then there’s days it’s designed for younger guys, it’s designed for older guys but it’s never a fluid thing. This game is the most fluid you’ll get in the preseason just because they’ll play a little bit longer.”
Do you have an idea where this offense could by?
“It should be better than last year, that’s for sure. We should be more explosive and we should run the ball as good or better.”
Why do you like John Wetzel rather than Cole Toner to replace Iupati at left guard?
“Bigger. Stronger. Cole, he’s done a good job at center but Wetzel has started at tackle and guard. He’s the natural—he’s the sixth guy.”
How anxious are your players to break camp?
“Not as much this week as last week. This week because the schedule change and how we’re practicing. They understand we could’ve broke camp last week and gone outside and practiced and nobody wanted to do that. Last week was more of the one. It was just same routine the same routine for a month.”
Is your defense maybe underrated nationally?
“If you don’t win they’re not. But yeah, statistically, yeah. But we didn’t create the turnovers we had. That to me—disruptive plays and turnovers is where we kind of where we made our name. Looking back at 2015 stats, we started the second half on defense but we got five turnovers and we won all five of those games. That’s the things that you’re looking at. The productively in certain situations. You can be top-5 in this and that but if you’re not top-5 in two-minute, if you’re not top-5 in takeaways, you’re probably not winning games and we dropped so far in takeaways and we gave it away a few more times.”
Third down the same thing?
“Third down really wasn’t as poor. Red zone offensively was much better. Defensively worse. But, yeah, those situations, ending halves, ending games, getting off the field on third down, those are more important to me than we give up the fewest yards in the league and we’re the No. 1 defense. No you’re not.”
Has Nkemdiche done anything that’s surprised you in camp?
“No, it’s everything we anticipated him to do and what we expected of him.”
How many wins do you think Phil Dawson alone is worth?
“You got to wait and see. He’s kicked a lot of game-winners in his day. We play a lot of close games so hopefully we’ll be in a lot of close games and he’s kicking game-winners, not standing over there watching somebody else.”
Has alternating holders bothered him at all?
“No. He’s got his preference but he’s OK with both.”
If you’ve got a good defense would you naturally do well in red zone and third down?
“No, you got defenses that bend-don’t-break type thing that give up tons of yards but they don’t get scored on a lot and then you got teams that, they give up a lot of touchdowns but they don’t give up a lot of yards. Those statistics of who the No. 1 defense is in the league sometimes are very skewed.”
How anxious is Deone Bucannon to practice?
“Yeah, he’s ready to hit somebody, that’s for sure, and hopefully it’s not me. He’s ready. He’s out there running in the heat and doing everything he needs to do; just getting still some of that last bit of stiffness out.”
Anything you still need to see from the starters in this third preseason game?
“Not as much the starters as the next four or five guys on both sides of the ball. There’s still a lot of competition for those last few spots, in playing positions not just roster positions but the next guy in. Who’s the next guy going in to rush the passer, who’s the next guy going in at nickel, who’s the other corner going in, who’s the other wide receiver going in the four wide receivers, same thing at running back.”