ARIZONA CARDINALS

Dealing Cards: Carson Palmer defends J.J. Nelson, MNF adds a practice day

Sep 20, 2017, 5:31 PM
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TEMPE, Ariz. – The questions were to be expected.

Earlier on Wednesday, wide receiver J.J. Nelson had been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his five-catch, 120-yard and one-touchdown performance at Indianapolis. It was the first of his career, and he became the third wide receiver in Arizona Cardinals history to win the award.

But rather than focusing on the what, it was about how Nelson accomplished those marks given his size, or lack thereof. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds.

“You’re talking about his slight build, but he catches the ball with really, really strong hands,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “He’s really smart. He sees defenses unfold. He’s one of those guys that when the lights come on, he makes plays. He’s a big playmaker.”

The numbers prove it.

Dating back to last season, Nelson, a fifth-round pick in 2015, now has nine touchdowns (eight receiving and one rushing) in his last 11 games, including seven scores (six receiving and one rushing) in his last seven games. Prior to this current 11-game stretch, Nelson had just two career touchdowns in 17 career games.

With those kind of numbers, then why is Nelson so quiet?

“Quiet? I don’t see J.J. as being quiet. He’s very talkative,” Palmer said. “He may be quiet around you guys, but he’s talkative in the locker room, especially when I’m making fun of him. I don’t see that. I don’t see that side of him.”

OK, but have you seen his legs? There are not a lot of players in the NFL with legs his size.

“Geez, you guys are all over him today. I’ve got to stick up for my guy,” Palmer said, playfully admonishing the media. “He was just squatting 225 (pounds) with a buddy on Tuesday, or maybe it was late last week. I just look at the film he puts out and the practices he has, and I’m proud of the way he’s playing.”

Bonus day

It was 92 degrees with a slight breeze blowing north-south when the Cardinals hit the practice field at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. They were outdoors for roughly 90 minutes for what head coach Bruce Arians called a bonus day’s worth of work given his team doesn’t play until Monday, when the Cardinals host the Dallas Cowboys.

“Everything was a walk-through today. It was a very, very good learning day,” Arians said. “I think it was a good start to the week as far as getting used to a little bit different offense and, obviously, a very different defense that they play than we’ve been seeing.”

Because of the Monday kickoff, there was no official injury report. However, during the portion of practice open to the media, neither wide receiver John Brown nor left tackle D.J. Humphries were spotted. Brown (quadriceps) and Humphries (knee) did not play at Indianapolis.

Some good news: dollar linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle), tight end Jermaine Gresham (ribs) and left guard Mike Iupati (triceps) all appeared ready to practice. They each had missed last week’s game.

Asked specifically about Bucannon’s chances of playing against the Cowboys, Arians said, “Yes. There is a chance, yes.”

The first official injury report is released Thursday.

Playing on Monday Night Football

When the Cardinals kick off on Monday, it will have been 37 days since they last played at University of Phoenix Stadium. They played two road games to end the preseason and two road games to begin the season.

“It seemed like longer than that too,” Palmer said, “but it’s just good that we finally get a chance to play in front of our crowd, on our grass. I know our fans will be ready. There’ll be a bunch of Cowboys fans there too, I’m sure.”

Having the home opener on a national stage should make for an unbelievable atmosphere inside the stadium, according to Arians.

“You couldn’t ask for anything more as a player and a coach,” he said.

Roster move

Before practice, the Cardinals re-signed linebacker Philip Wheeler to fill the roster spot that had once belonged to recently released tight end Jim Dray.

It was Wheeler who was released to make room for Dray last Friday.

“He’s a pro. He gets a paycheck. It was a matter of possibly being inactive or getting a player that was going to be active because of injury,” Arians said, referring to Wheeler. “He understands this. He knows the situation.”

Wheeler, a nine-year NFL veteran, had also been let go by the team just prior to the season opener only to be re-signed the following week.

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Dealing Cards: Carson Palmer defends J.J. Nelson, MNF adds a practice day