Camp K notes: Cardinals WR coach David Raih details the 2nd-year pros
Aug 25, 2020, 1:33 PM
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Arizona Cardinals have invested heavily in their wide receiver room.
The player development process beyond DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk has just been more tedious that what was expected when Arizona selected three receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft: Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson.
Leading the room is up-beat wide receivers coach David Raih, who spoke with reporters Tuesday. He acknowledged all three have taken their lumps as rookies and come back better for it.
“It’s hard to be good every day. All three of them know that now,” Raih said. “You’re seeing their maturity and diligence start to show up.”
Here’s what Raih had to say specifically about the three second-year receivers.
Andy Isabella: The second-round pick is putting together a strong camp, and Raih added that Tuesday’s practice might have been Isabella’s best as a pro.
The focus for Isabella, as it is for the other young wideouts, is getting off the line of scrimmage. The problem is unique to him because of his size (5-foot-9, 188 pounds) and also because Arizona moved him to the outside spot midway through his rookie season, where players typically line up against bigger corners in press coverage.
“Our whole route constitution is: beat the press, vertical pressure and then develop the route. You watch Andy’s tape in college, he’s just running on open grass,” Raih said. “What he’s learned, what he’s learning to do, is be more efficient with his speed and quickness off the line. If you can’t get off the press, you can’t even use your speed.
“You’re seeing Andy, he’s gone through the pain of learning how to get off the press.”
Raih said Isabella is cleaning up the top of his routes, which helps him get to his flat speed that he showed with an 88-yard touchdown last year. He’s also getting better at framing the football, using his hands more than his body to reel balls in.
“He wasn’t a very instinctual guy last year. He was just a little mechanical,” Raih said. “His game is much more fluid. Because of it, you’re just seeing the ball go to him more often. He’s doing a nice job on his short routes and he’s making some plays down the field.”
KeeSean Johnson: You’ll remember Johnson was the talk of training camp and began the year as a regular in the rotation. But halfway through 2019, his snap counts dissipated, leading to Johnson finding himself inactive in the last five games of the season.
“KeeSean started off pretty fast,” Raih said. “He kind of showed up, making plays. As you get into a 16-game NFL season, it’s hard to be consistent. The other thing was Kee wasn’t a top-three receiver or top-four receiver — I mean consistently.”
Johnson also didn’t have any special teams duties, leading to his inactive stints. He finished with 21 catches for 187 yards.
“I can tell you this. He’s got a ton of pride. He worked on it all offseason,” Raih said. “Personally, I love him. He’s so fun to coach because he cares so much.”
Hakeem Butler: The fourth-round pick missed 2019 while on the injured reserve, meaning he also missed practice time with his teammates.
Like Isabella, Butler’s stature — he’s 6-foot-5 — presents unique problems.
“What you’re seeing now is he’s just been more diligent about everything he does,” Raih said. “He’s a long guy who can get outside his body. The tighter he plays, the tighter his feet are, the more he can get up the field. The tighter his arms are, the more he can shed and get off the press.”
— Raih on coaching DeAndre Hopkins: “Hop’s a good soul. Like, he’s a very engaging person. Coaching him, he really listens to what you’re telling him,” Raih said. “He’s already produced and you can tell he loves the game and he’s very coachable. We train footwork like crazy, and he’s very eager to learn and improve.”
— Which receiver has stood out most in camp? That would be the same answer as the year before and the year before that and the year before that: “I don’t know who’s made more plays in this camp. He’s a 37-year-old guy,” Raih said of Fitzgerald.