Cards camp notebook: Receiving room fights negative perception
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Much of the offseason focus on the Arizona Cardinals has been aimed at the quarterback position and rightly so. None of the guys vying for snaps in camp were even on the roster last year.
It’s only half the equation for the passing game though. When Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen or even Mike Glennon drop back to pass in a meaningful game this fall, who exactly are they throwing the ball to?
Larry Fitzgerald is obviously the anchor for the receiving corps. That’s a nice foundation to build from. And now that running back David Johnson is healthy, he can resume his usual role of carving up opposing defenses through the air as well as on the ground.
After that? It’s still pretty wide open.
Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks doesn’t think the lack of clarity means a lack of talent.
“Just because the perception that there’s not any big time names there, (means) that we don’t have good players,” Wilks said Friday. “J.J. [Nelson] can take the top off. You guys saw that, did it again today. Greg Little is stepping up, you know, we talked about Trent [Sherfield] the other day. Christian [Kirk] is doing some great things. So we have some good players.”
None of those guys are established, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute. They’re question marks at this point.
Chad Williams only had three receptions over six games as a rookie but is looking to take a big step in his second year. Nelson has made big plays in the NFL before, but he’s never cemented himself a s consistent No. 2 option.
Meanwhile, Little put together a few decent seasons with Cleveland — of all teams — but hasn’t caught a pass since 2014. Kirk has upside, but hasn’t had a chance to show it at this level yet.
Sherfield was supposed to be an afterthought as an undrafted rookie, but he’s making a name for himself in camp. Then there’s Brice Butler, who never really took off in five seasons split between Oakland and Dallas, but brings size to the position at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds.
“Our room is full of talent, so every day you just have to come with your A game,” Williams said. “Just come ready to play every day. Guys in this room are unselfish guys and we push each other to be much better, and we try to bring out the full potential in others. So that’s a real good thing.”
Wilks has declined to publicly give a number as to how many receivers the Cardinals will keep when they trim the roster down to 53 players, but there’s only so much room to dedicate to any one position. Keeping more than, say, six of them means sacrifices on other parts of the field. The Cardinals hope more than one or two of them separate themselves from the pack in the next few weeks.
CHANDLER VS DJ
One of the battles that has emerged during camp doesn’t involve two guys fighting for playing time. It features Chandler Jones lining up against 2015 first rounder D.J. Humphries. The Cardinals are pinning a lot of their hopes on Humphries locking down the pivotal left tackle position for a full 16 games this season, and facing the NFL’s reigning sack leader every day can only help his development.
“I told D.J. yesterday, I said ‘you know what, you’ll never go against someone in a game like me,'” Jones said.” And I say that proudly because there’s not a lot of guys that do the moves that I do. And I told D.J. ‘if you can get these down, if you can stop me on a consistent basis, you’ll be fine.'”
-The fact that Vegas and most national publications aren’t expecting much from Arizona isn’t lost on the players. But that doesn’t mean they’re getting caught up in it.
“That doesn’t motivate me,” Jones said. “What motivates me is these guys in this locker room. The names on these lockers. We’re playing for each other, we’re playing for the coaches. We have a new coaching staff. I go out there each and every day at practice like I’m going to get fired. You have to have that mentality because this business, it is what it is. So we have no one to impress nationally or what other people think. It’s the guys in this locker room.”
-NFL official John Hussey was at camp on Friday to explain the league’s rule changes — particularly the new guidelines around leading with the helmet and simplifying what a catch actually is –and to answer questions from both the players and media on how they’ll be enforced in 2018.