ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals’ D.J. Humphries eyeing strong culture, team success for 2021

Mar 9, 2021, 10:49 AM
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries understands what it’s like to live with that bottom-of-the-barrel feeling.

Given the bust label early on in his career — not to mention a certain nickname — Humphries has had an uphill climb since being selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

But instead of sulking in the corner, Humphries did something about it, improving his play year over year to get to the point where he is today: Arizona’s anchor in the trenches.

Humphries graded out as the fourth-highest tackle in the NFL last season with a Pro Football Focus rating of 88.3. He was third in run-blocking at 90.8. He’s also found a way to stay on the field consistently, playing all 32 games over the last two years, and was named a team captain in 2020.

But despite the individual success, the tackle is anything but satisfied with how the team’s 2020 played out.

“To me, being an offensive lineman, you realize that accolades and doing well doesn’t really matter without your team’s success,” Humphries told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Tuesday. “It doesn’t matter if you blocked a guy all game, you didn’t win. Being able to do my job at a high level is what I always strive to do. Now, it’s continuing to do my job at a high level and finding some ways to fold in some more wins.”

“I’m going to be honest, I think I break it down every day. I think that’s been fueling me through the offseason. Just being so close and not being in the playoffs since my rookie year and being so close this year is something that’s been burying my spirit a little bit, kinda lingering,” Humphries added. “But like I said, I’ve been channeling it and using it in a positive way and using it as fuel this offseason when I’m training. But it’s definitely something that’s been in the back of my mind all offseason.”

He’s not the only Cardinals lineman feeling the hangover of missing the postseason despite starting out 6-3, as Humphries mentioned he’s seen and heard the same fire burning in teammate Justin Pugh.

It’s a good sign for an offensive line that helped the Cardinals finish with more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground in 2020. It marked just the sixth time in franchise history the offense accomplished the feat, and the first since 1984.

“I think we’re building a culture of high energy, high intensity and all guys want to do is just win and be the best versions of themselves, better versions of themselves than they were the day before. Honing all those skills out on the practice field and taking it to the game,” Humphries said of the offensive line.

“At least that’s the type of player I try to be and the type of example I try to set for all the guys that’s watching me. … Just doing stuff the right way and hopefully the people that are watching me … I hope they can attach themselves to that and develop a mentality that this is how everyone does everything.”

It also doesn’t hurt to have offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who brings “that high-energy, punch-them-in-the-mouth” mentality, taking over the reins of the running game following an offseason promotion.

LARRY WATCH 2021

– Humphries on if wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be back for an 18th NFL season:

“I would hope so. I don’t want Larry to ever leave, selfishly. But I think him being who he is, he’s allotted himself the right to wait as long as he wants to tell everyone.”

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