New era notes: Cardinals’ Michael Wilson finding offensive routine

Aug 17, 2023, 5:00 PM

Michael Wilson looks on...

Wide receiver Michael Wilson #14 of the Arizona Cardinals participates in a team practice ahead of the NFL season at State Farm Stadium on August 01, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals and the rest of the NFL practice more than they play.

Sundays — and Mondays and sometimes Thursdays — gets the glory, but the games begin well before the lights come on.

It’s about controlling the controllable and a strong week of practice can go a long way in the final outcome of a game or an individual’s performance and growth. They don’t say “practice makes perfect” for nothing.

Cardinals rookie wide receiver Michael Wilson understands that and continues to use every day out on the Tempe practice fields to get better in some way, shape or form with the regular season rapidly approaching.

“I think I’ve done a good job in practice making the plays that come to me,” he said Thursday. “It’s starting to become more routine, starting to get more comfortable in the offense, starting to get more comfortable with the NFL system, starting to get more comfortable with the quarterbacks.

“I’m feeling really confident going into all the preseason games because I’ve been doing well in practice.”

From a stats standpoint, there wasn’t much to write home about in terms of Wilson’s first taste of live NFL action (two catches for eight yards) in Friday’s win over the Denver Broncos.

That’s not to say there wasn’t something to glean from his usage.

Not only did Wilson get the starting nod in the preseason opener, he saw a starter’s sample size of preseason reps.

“I thought I did decently well. It’s a little hard to completely evaluate myself because I only played two series. Hopefully in the future, I’ll be able to get some more snaps under my belt and more consistent snaps in a row.

“I feel like when you only play a couple series, that’s like when you’re start getting your feet wet … but I thought it was good. I thought I did well creating separation, having a few good blocks, just playing with effort, doing what coach JG is telling us to do and just hitting hard and giving 100% effort.”

Good competition welcomed

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told reporters Thursday he’s planning to play his starters for the first half of Saturday’s tilt.

Sounds like a plan, says defensive coordinator Nick Rallis.

“Do I enjoy good competition? Absolutely,” he said Thursday. “That’s a phenomenal offense. One of the best quarterbacks in the game. You’ll find out how high of a level you can compete, so I’m excited for that.”

Sideline life

Much like offensive coordinator Drew Petzing, Rallis is in the still in the process of nailing down some game logistics.

That includes figuring out what works best from a calling-the-defense standpoint.

The last time he worked from the sideline prior to joining the Cardinals was in 2021. It was a vantage point he, quite frankly, did not like as a position coach.

But as a coordinator, his role has shifted and it appears so has his thoughts on the field versus booth debate.

“My plan was to give going on the field another try, because I had gotten back up in the booth in 2022. It was a better compliment for Jonathan,” Rallis said. “My plan was to do a game on the sidelines, stay a little bit further back, see if I could see what I needed to see. and if that didn’t work out, I was going to try going up in the booth.

“But I actually really liked it. I think there’s value being on the sideline where I can communicate with the players face to face, with Jonathan face to face. I enjoy being on the field.”

Behind the scenes

There were a handful of standout plays when looking back at Friday’s tape, two coming courtesy of starting center Hjalte Froholdt.

The video montage of Froholdt has since made the rounds on social media, shining some light on the big man whether he’s comfortable with it or not.

“Of course, it’s awesome, but for offensive linemen? I don’t know,” he said Thursday. “D-linemen are a little bit different, they like to post their highlights and stuff like that. I like to be behind the scenes.

“I just happened to be in some good positions. … It’s a lot of attention. I like to be behind and just do my job.”

Ertz back

After missing Wednesday’s practice with an illness, tight end Zach Ertz was back among his teammates during the open portion of work on Thursday.

Fresh off the physically unable to perform list, Ertz is unlikely to participate Saturday night, but it’s still a good sign to see him back on the field.

The same can’t be said for a few others, though.

Don’t expect to see much — if any — of linebacker Cameron Thomas, quarterback Jeff Driskel or offensive lineman Pat Elflein when the Chiefs come to town Saturday night.

The trio did not participate throughout the open portion of practice all week.

Gannon said earlier in the week that Thomas was dealing with a “residual effect” from Friday’s win over the Denver Broncos. Driskel on the other hand has a residual effect from a practice before the preseason opener.

It’s unclear what Elflein has missed time with.

Their presumed inactive status Saturday could potentially open the door up for others to get extended looks in Week 2 of Arizona’s preseason slate, such as Jon Gaines and Lecitus Smith at center and Victor Dimukeje and Jesse Luketa at pass rusher.

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