Dealing Cards: Pivotal week for WRs, more accolades for Johnson
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals continued preparations for Thursday’s preseason finale in Denver, holding a split practice at the team facility in Tempe on Tuesday.
“Good outdoor session,” head coach Bruce Arians noted. “More about finding out the condition we’re in. Trying to get 40 plays in pretty quickly in the heat. Went very, very well. I’ll have to go in and watch the other practice on tape because I was outside.”
While this will be the fourth week of the preseason for all but two NFL teams, the game against the Broncos will mark Arizona’s fifth exhibition contest this year. A number of players are still vying for spots before Saturday’s massive roster cutdown, while others are simply trying to get back to 100 percent before the season opener against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 10.
Mike Iupati is one of those guys – a key piece of the Cardinals’ offensive line, who has been dealing with a triceps injury.
“He’s doing fine. He’s doing fine,” was the vaguely optimistic answer Arians gave, when asked about his starting left guard’s health. He went on to explain Iupati won’t do much this week, other than some occasional running.
Arians also threw the “doing fine” label on Robert Nkemdiche, who suffered a calf strain six days ago.
More recognition for David Johnson
Cardinal fans have likely had David Johnson firmly on their radars since he found his way into the end zone three times over his first two NFL games as a rookie back in 2015. His national profile grew later that season, when he became the team’s starting running back. And it really gathered momentum in 2016, when he took aim at a number of single-season NFL records.
His monster performance in his second NFL season earned him the respect of fantasy football players everywhere, and now it has even landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
“We knew that they were going to do a story on it,” the 25-year old running back explained. “I did not know if I was going to be on the cover or not. They said I had a good chance of it, but once I’d seen that I was on it, it’s amazing. It’s an amazing feeling, you know, to be on one of the most ultimate sports magazines that everyone sees. It’s pretty cool.”
He also pointed out that he’ll be keeping the first copy that he gets. After that, he’ll go about getting a separate one for his family.
The push for roster spots at wide receiver has been one of the more compelling battles at training camp this summer. Many assume Arizona will hold on to six players at the position, with an outside possibility that they might even keep seven past Saturday.
Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson are all locks to make the cut, with Brittan Golden, Jeremy Ross and Aaron Dobson likely vying for a final spot. Dobson’s upside as a potential downfield threat makes him an intriguing option, though he may need to make up some ground after losing time to a hamstring injury during camp.
“I feel good,” he said. “You know, I’m back on the field, I feel healthy. Like I said, I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunities. I can’t control what happened, injuries happen. So I’ve just got to take the most of what happened and just do what I can do when I get on the field.”
In addition to all those names, there’s also Chad Williams. The rookie out of Grambling will make the roster, if for no other reason than the simple fact that the Cards just used a third round pick on him a few months ago. The upside is there, yet he’s looked a little out of place at times during the preseason. Arians acknowledged that, but pointed out he still has confidence that the youngster could step right in if needed.
“Yeah but I think, if injury happened, he’d be ready,” Arians said. “Once you get into gameplans, that offense shrinks so much. You just study, you know, 100 plays rather than 1,000 plays. And your practice is so much easier for you.”