Normalcy returns to Cardinals rookie minicamp; Kingsbury pleased with bye

May 14, 2021, 3:21 PM | Updated: 3:47 pm
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore adjusts his helmet during rookie minicamp Frid...
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Rondale Moore adjusts his helmet during rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Last season’s batch of Cardinals rookies got off to a rough start due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Stuck doing virtual meetings with coaches, unable to hit the field with their teammates for minicamp or OTAs, the 2020 draft class was severely behind the eight ball.

Especially for players like projected 2021 starting linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said missed out on 1,200 live reps due to the off time. Simmons managed to find his bearings after a rough go of things, but there’s no doubt a normal offseason has helped smooth the edges of his and the rest of the rookies’ games.

Luckily for Arizona’s 2021 draft class, those times appear to be over with the kickoff of rookie minicamp on Friday.

It’s too early to tell how this group will fare at the next level, but for head coach Kliff Kingsbury, it’s just refreshing to get back on the practice field.

“As a staff we’re just thrilled to be around the guys, to actually be in person and work with them, get them on the field,” he said. “Last year was tough for this group when you talk about the rookies going into training camp never even having met a coach in person or their teammates or even lined up on a field and executed plays, our defenses, our special teams work.

“Right now, we’re just all thrilled to be able to work with them and I think it’s gonna show for a lot of these guys in preseason just being able to get this work right now. Thought they had good energy, thought guys were focused and fun group to be around.”

Bye week lands in ‘perfect spot’ for Kingsbury, Cardinals

Not lost on the return of rookie minicamp was the recent schedule release that features a handful of primetime games for the Cardinals.

What stood out to Kingsbury, however, was the team’s bye in Week 12.

“I think the bye actually landed in the perfect spot for us,” Kingsbury said. “We’ve been absolutely awful after Thanksgiving since I’ve been here, so we’ll just take the whole week off and see if we can come back stronger the next time.”

Since Kingsbury took over head-coaching duties in 2019, Arizona has gone 4-7 in games played after Thanksgiving. That includes a 2-4 record in 2020 that forced the Cardinals out of the postseason after winning five of their first seven games.

As for actual games, there are certainly a few circled on the schedule for the head coach.

“But exciting games for our fans, that to me is what stands out, knowing we’ll have the Red Sea back in the building it looks like,” Kingsbury said. “Green Bay on a Thursday night will be really fun for them. And then a Christmas night game. There’s some unique games for our fans, so that’s exciting to see.”

Kingsbury already formulating rookies’ roles

While Kingsbury was quick to say he expects first-round pick Zaven Collins to start at MIKE linebacker following rookie mini-camp Friday, there’s a few other players the head coach has some ideas on.

Here are some of his thoughts on the rookies so far.

CBs Tay Gowan and Marco Wilson

“Tay’s definitely an outside guy. Long, really fast. That’s where he’s played. Marco’s played both. Marco we like either or. That gives you Byron Murphy, who we feel like can play at a high level inside or outside and Marco as well. So that’s kinda how we see those guys aligning.”

WR Rondale Moore

“Very, very confident young man. Played in a great system there at Purdue so very familiar with some of our offensive terminology, the way we do things. But just like attitude, he’s a worker, he’s focused, he’s business-like. All he wants to do is to continue to meet and to continue to work out and continue to run routes. He’s got the right mindset for sure.”

TEs Cary Angeline, Bernhard Seikovits and Bruno Labelle

“We felt like that’s a good group. We know numbers-wise in that tight end group right now we don’t have a ton and so we felt like those guys who were free agents it was a great opportunity. So we’ll see how they develop. But first time being around them but they seem to be hard-working and studious.”

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