Cardinals notebook: Interchangeability a must for Arizona wide receivers
GLENDALE — Ever since the NFL handed out a six-game suspension to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, predicting what the starting receiving group will look like has been a constant occurrence.
Who will command the No. 1 spot out wide? Is Hollywood Brown better out of the slot or should he be used along the boundary? Where does Rondale Moore fit in? How does Antoine Wesley factor into the equation?
It’s a fluid situation for a reason, associate head coach and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said Monday.
“In our group, we just don’t have an X, an H, a Y and a Z,” Jefferson said. “All these guys are interchangeable. That’s what I require of those guys. They have to know every position.
“We truly believe in moving guys around and causing different headaches for the defense and not just leaving guys in the same spot.”
Looking at snap counts from last season, it’s certainly not out of the ordinary for Brown and Moore to be moved around the field. Per Pro Football Focus, Brown saw snaps both in the slot (31.4%) and out wide (68.5%) during his final season with the Baltimore Ravens. That should only continue in Arizona, especially when Hopkins returns in Week 7.
Moore was all over the field as a gadget man, seeing snaps out wide (19.3%) and inside (77.1%) to go along with his returning duties on special teams. He’s poised to get added touches in an offense that is now “completely wide open” for Moore, said Jefferson.
While Moore and Brown were moved around frequently, the same couldn’t be said for Green last season, with the wideout garnering 91% of his total reps out wide. Over his 10-year career, the highest percentage Green has ever been in the slot is 28.1% in 2018.
But with Hopkins sidelined until Week 7, even more wrinkles are going to be needed to get players in the right spot and keep the defense on its toes. Green getting more work in other spots could help with that.
“He just turned 34 yesterday and he’s playing like he’s 25,” Jefferson said. “He’s got really good genetics. He had a really good foundation when he got into the league as far as footwork, understanding coverage, understanding a DB’s leverage and how to use it against him.
“He’s really kept himself in shape, he’s kind of held Mother Nature at bay, along with the fundamentals he possesses. And coming from a good foundation, he’s still able to be a constant contributor.”
Battles heating up in the WRs room
The Cardinals are not short on talent when it comes to a wide receivers room headlined by Hopkins, Brown, Moore and Green.
Those four names are certainly locked in to see their fair share of reps come gameday, but the same can’t be said for the players jostling for playing time or a spot on the 53-man roster.
“We have a battle going on in that group across the board after the first couple of guys,” Jefferson said Monday. “We have a serious battle going on. I’m anxious to see how it’s going to shake out. Once we get those preseason games and everything like that, all that stuff will play itself out.”
While the pads have yet to come on, Greg Dortch certainly looked to have the leg up on his counterparts on Monday.
Known for his speed and special teams play, Dortch — who worked out privately for Jefferson back in college — hauled in three touchdowns over the course of 11-on-11 work.
He’s one of many looking to stand out to Jefferson and the rest of the offensive coaching staff this camp.
“He plays bigger than what he is, very sure hands,” Jefferson said of the 5-foot-7 Dortch. “There’s not a lot of coaches around the league that’s in my position right now with having so much talent and stuff. My thing now is to get these guys enough reps during the preseason so if it doesn’t shake out here, they have good film.”
More from Jefferson on some of the guys currently battling for reps/a roster spot:
Wesley: “He’s kind of grown into a guy that we can really, really count on on the outside. A guy with some length that drop his weight, separate in the break area, can go up and make those contested catches. He’s taken a tremendous step from last year. … He’s found a way to stick and so much about this thing when guys come into the league, it’s not so much where you’re drafted and stuff like that. Can you stick? Can you find a way with your skillset to make you valuable to the team? And he’s done that. It helps that he’s 6-foot-4 as well.”
Victor Bolden Jr.: “That kid has really stuck out, to be honest with you. … He’s shifty, he’s another guy that can play both inside and outside. … He can make guys miss after the catch, special teams-wise.”
Andy Isabella: “He’s doing everything well for me, it’s just a numbers game. … You got Hop, you got A.J. He’s had a really good camp for me so far, he really has. It’s just a numbers thing. It’s not like he can’t play this game. He can play. He’s fast enough to play … he can stretch the defense. Right now, it’s just a numbers game. I have to do a better job of getting him in on plays where we can showcase his skillset.”
– Safety Budda Baker and cornerback Byron Murphy each recorded an interception during 11-on-11s on Monday. Both of the picks came courtesy of Colt McCoy, who was taking over starter reps with QB Kyler Murray out due to COVID-19.
– Nick Vigil was patrolling the middle of the defense as the team’s MIKE backer more times than not, with Isaiah Simmons seen once again working in the secondary.