What to watch for as Arizona Cardinals mandatory minicamp kicks off
Jun 12, 2023, 8:01 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2023, 7:08 am
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
Voluntary offseason work is no more!
Now, things get mandatory with this week’s minicamp before training camp gets underway in a few months.
And while we may not learn the full story about the 2023 Arizona Cardinals over a handful of workouts, takeaways can still be had.
Here’s what I’ll be keeping tabs on during the week of mandatory work:
New deal on the horizon?
So much for what was supposed to be a suspenseful Tuesday morning!
After it was reported — and later confirmed — that safety Budda Baker was back at the team facility on Monday in preparation for mandatory minicamp, questions as to whether or not the safety would be within the walls of the Tempe complex this week have been squashed.
Could we see a new deal get hashed out this week?
It’s too early to tell, but the safety being back among his new coaching staff and teammates is a good sign that the two sides are talking.
His participation during the course of the minicamp — and potential availability pos-workout — are going to have people watching the defensive cornerstone like hawks.
Some kind of defensive identity
Will this be the week we finally get a clearer picture — or confirmation — as to whether or not this defense is going to operate out of a base 3-4 or 4-3?
I doubt it, but at least we can dream!
Ojulari on the field and under contract?
The Cardinals’ 2023 draft class has been the talk of Arizona’s offseason.
That is most of it.
While the Michael Wilsons, Paris Johnsons and Jon Gaines are already turning heads, the same can’t be said for second-rounder BJ Ojulari.
The linebacker was a nonparticipant throughout organized team activities this offseason, as he continues to work through some things medically, general manager Monti Ossenfort told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Monday.
He also remains unsigned — though Ossenfort is not concerned with the delay — representing the lone Cardinals draft pick to put pen to paper.
“BJ has been here every day. He is working through some things off the field medically. We will get him out there as soon as we can,” Ossenfort told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Tuesday. “In terms of signing his contract, I am not worried about that. It’s a factor of where he was drafted in the second round.
“There has been some hiccups if you look at the league-wide signings of the second-round picks, it’s been the slowest moving group of any picks. It is about guaranteed money and where that all falls. I am not worried about that at all. BJ will be at camp on time and we are excited to get him out there and ready to roll.”
The linebacker has been raved about by defensive coordinator Nick Rallis and head coach Jonathan Gannon.
But until he gets on the grass on a consistent basis, his growth as an NFL rookie is stunted.
Collins still edgy?
Zaven Collins moving to outside linebacker has been talked about endlessly this offseason.
That’ll happen when you move a 2021 first-round pick who thrived as the team’s starting MIKE backer in 2022 to a position he played a small percentage at the past two seasons.
But so far, Collins seems more than OK with the move, signaling his willingness to buy into what the new regime is selling.
And with Kyzir White expected to man the MIKE backer role, why not try Collins at a position of need for the defense?
If Collins continues to solely work as an OLB this week, I think it’s safe to say the transition has been made, or at the very least, approved by upper management.
Where’s Paris and JG2?
Two rookies that seem to be grasping the NFL life better than most are offensive linemen Paris Johnson Jr. and Jon Gaines.
Johnson has quickly gained the trust of the coaching staff on the outside, while Gaines continues to be included in the center competition brewing in Tempe.
Can Johnson prove this week that he can wrestle away a starting tackle job from D.J. Humphries or Kelvin Beachum?
And will Gaines take another step forward as an NFL center, or does he still have a ways to go behind Hjalte Froholdt and Lecitus Smith?
The Michael Wilson Show
Offseason workouts are a series of litmus tests for rookies.
So far, Wilson has looked the part.
His latest test comes this week when the work stops being voluntary and much more of Arizona’s playmakers show up on a consistent basis.
Can he keep up with what wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Drew Terrell is throwing his way?
The Cardinals’ interior defensive line feels like a jumbled mess with no clear-cut starters in a room that includes L.J. Collier, Carlos Watkins, Leki Fotu, Rashard Lawrence, Jonathan Ledbetter, Kevin Strong and rookie Dante Stills.
Look for some sort of separation this week.