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With pads on, Marqui Christian gets to be himself

Safety Marqui Christian watches the play unfold during training camp Aug. 1. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Marqui Christian was one of the stars of Arizona’s offseason practices, showing well in rookie camp, OTAs and mini-camp.

In fact, there was considerable buzz surrounding the defensive back, who was chosen in the fifth round of the draft out of Midwestern State, with many talking him up as the next small-school find by Cardinals GM Steve Keim.

While he had shown pretty well in the first couple training camp practices, it has been since the pads went on where Christian has been, well, himself.

“I was excited to put the pads on, I couldn’t wait,” Christian said after practice Monday, the team’s second straight in pads. “Coming out there yesterday with the pads on, it was fun just being able to fly around with the pads on with the guys.

“It’s been fun. I’m just trying to stack brick-by-brick every day, trying to improve day-by-day.”

Christian, who won the Cliff Harris Award as the nation’s top small-college defensive player in 2015, is known for bringing good speed and instincts to the table. As a senior, he tallied 95 tackles, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two tackles for loss.

He is also known for being a big hitter, and therefore it should be no surprise that he is a different player with pads. After all, while he’s not out on the field trying to light anyone up, the ability to tackle — or at least hit someone — makes all the difference.

“He’s a hitter; that’s what we loved about him coming out,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s a hitter and you’re not allowed to hit anybody in shorts. He’s one of those guys that looks real nice right now.”

Christian said he’s been learning as much as he can from his teammates, and is pleased to be on what he says is a special team that allows him to compete with so many great players. That has allowed him to pick things up quickly.

“Now we’re in the speed of things, we’re in pads, I feel like I’m playing comfortably, I’m being myself,” he said. “I know what I’ve got to do. I hear the play, I get lined up and I just play fast.”

The biggest challenge, Christian said, has been trying to get the playbook down, which comes with the territory of being a rookie. He understands there is a long way for him to go, noting how he’s only been threw a handful of training camp practices.

All Christian can do right now is put quality performances on film, and he’s confident he’s been doing just that as the feedback from his coaches has been “pretty good.”

He’ll most certainly still have his rookie moments, but as long as the good outweighs the bad, Christian may yet carve out a significant role. For him, though, this moment — his first NFL training camp — has not been too overwhelming.

“It is what I thought it would be,” he said, admitting he figured the speed would be a little faster once the pads came on and noting having a couple of practices before the veterans reported allowed the acclimation process to go smoother. “So ever since we stepped on the turf with everybody it’s just been football, like before.”

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