Cardinals report to camp hoping spring installs carry over
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wednesday marked the official reporting date for Arizona Cardinals players, a symbolic turning of the page following 2018’s page-turn that the team hopes rips right out of the history book.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray have doubters entering their first NFL season, but the process of installing a new offense and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s defense started in April during the first of a series of offseason mini-camp.
“I liked what I saw as far as understanding our system, picking things up, some executing during the spring,” Kingsbury said Wednesday. “Now it’s about the physical part of things.”
Murray and the Arizona rookies remained in town for two weeks following a full team mandatory mini-camp from June 11-13. They had just more than two weeks off before reporting back to the Cardinals and, along with some veterans, already passed their run tests that the rest of the team went through on Wednesday. Everyone showed up in shape, according to Kingsbury.
The next few days will include dusting off the playbook for the full team, and pads are expected to be put on over the weekend.
“There’s definitely a sense of urgency, excitement, just to see how everything comes together,” said linebacker Jordan Hicks, a free agent addition who Wednesday saw the inside of State Farm Stadium for the first time. “We got a clean slate and we get to write it the way we want to. It’s exciting.”
Added second-year receiver Christian Kirk: “It’s like waking up on Christmas morning. Everybody has those butterflies, those jitters. For us as a team, I think we just have to approach it with a chip on our shoulder.
“There’s a lot of unknowns but the potential that we have is very high, and I think that’s why there’s a lot of intrigue with people around the league with what we got.”
LOTS TO DO, LITTLE HINTS AT HOW
Kingsbury didn’t drop many hints as to how the Cardinals will approach divvying up snaps for veterans or rookies this training camp and preseason.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson will miss the first six games of the regular season due to a PED suspension, but Kingsbury said it “remains to be seen” how much he’ll play during the preseason.
“We’ll be smart with that,” the head coach added. “He’ll get his reps but we gotta get those young guys ready to play as well.”
Kingsbury also wouldn’t bite on whether rookie second-round pick Byron Murphy might be the starting corner opposite veteran Robert Alford. He named veteran Tramaine Brock and second-year pro Chris Jones as other players vying for that job.
As for the offense, getting enough reps for Murray and three rookie receivers who could make the regular season roster is paramount.
“It’s kind of similar to last year. We were very young last year as well but we’re even more young,” Kirk said. “It’s going to be very advantageous for us to make sure our guys are getting out there, getting a feel for the offense, getting a feel for running it against a different person, lining up against a different color.”
Of course, Kingsbury doesn’t want to spoil opponents with what he might dial up during the regular season.
“You want to feel great about guys understanding and executing the offense when the lights are on, but you also don’t want to give away what you’re doing and you want to protect some of your players,” Kingsbury said. “We’ll try to find a healthy balance of that and making sure Kyler’s getting a ton of great reps in practice and quality reps in the game as well.”
— The terminology of Arizona’s offense uses Kingsbury’s verbiage from his head-coaching days at Texas Tech, but he also allowed Murray to adopt language from Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma offense if he felt more comfortable with it. That’s been key to the rookie quarterback having full control of the offense.
— Kingsbury said the Cardinals training staff has scheduled out rest days for up to seven veteran players during camp.