Cardinals notes: Niklas and Floyd are up, Jones is comfortable
SAN DIEGO — It should not come as a surprise that no one seems to be upset about Cardinals training camp being moved to San Diego for the rest of the week.
The sun is out, yes, but the temperature will top out in the low 80s, which is about 30 degrees cooler than what everyone left back in Arizona.
“You’re not sweating in 20 seconds in going outside, yeah,” receiver Michael Floyd said. “So the weather’s great.”
It is. Sorry (but not really).
Of course, the Cardinals are not here to relax and enjoy the weather — everyone is here to work, and that process will really begin Tuesday night when the Cardinals and Chargers practice together at Qualcomm Stadium.
Until then, here are some notes from Tuesday afternoon’s media session, which featured coach Bruce Arians and a quartet of players. The only player who spoke in this piece but is not quoted is Tony Jefferson, as there will be a separate story on him posted later on ArizonaSports.com.
Troy Niklas keeps ascending
The third-year tight end’s performance so far in camp has been a good one, and last Friday against Oakland he turned some heads as his two-catch, 44-yard effort served notice that the former second-round pick is ready to make an impact.
Apparently, the key to him staying healthy was training less this offseason.
“He over-trained,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “He kept over-training and getting hurt. He finally relaxed and just did what (strength coach Buddy Morris) told him to do and (assistant strength coach Roger Kingdom) told him to do. He’s reaping the benefits and, knock on wood, he’s staying healthy and he’ll be working with the first-team today.”
Niklas has dealt with hamstring issues as well as a broken hand and high ankle sprains since being drafted in the second round out of Notre Dame in 2014. The tight end said he learned it is possible to do too much when it comes to training.
“You can train too hard and that’s what happens,” he said. “You just run yourself down into the ground and get injured.”
The 23-year-old noted it’s difficult to know when he’s going too hard, because some days he may be sore and has to push through it while others he may feel great and actually be doing damage. The key is trusting the team’s trainers, who have guided him through the process.
Now healthy and running with the first-team, Niklas said he still has work to do in order to keep his starting spot. The challenge for him, as he said with a smile, is that a tight end is expected to run like a receiver and block like a tackle.
“It’s a tough position to navigate; you’re always trying to improve one or the other,” he said. “You can have a good blocking game but a terrible receiving game, and vice-versa.
“It’s difficult, but I think it’s one of the most fun positions.”
In two seasons, he has seven catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns — both of which were scored in a win over the Cleveland Browns last season.
What’s nice for Niklas is that he is now able to work on improving as a tight end and not at working to return to the field. The 6-foot-6, 270 pound former linebacker is able to spend his days learning his craft rather than rehabbing, and that has made all the difference.
“Coming in this year, I felt like I actually had a fighting chance,” he said. “And that’s what’s made it so much more fun, more of a competition, because when you come in injured, you know you’re not 100 percent and it’s not very fun.”
Michael Floyd can do it all
A lot has been expected of Floyd ever since the Cardinals chose him 13th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, and at times he has been every bit a dominant receiver.
The key for him, as he enters the final year of his contract, is to find consistency.
That may start with him feeling good.
“I feel the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here, since I’ve been a rookie,” he said. “I think everything’s going great for me. I’m having a good camp, knowing the offense a lot more now and I’m feeling good about this year.”
Floyd’s camp last season was cut short with a gruesome hand injury, though he went on to catch 52 passes for 849 yards and six touchdowns. After the season, Arians said he thinks Floyd would have topped the 1,000-yard mark, which he last did in 2013, if not for injuries.
At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds with good speed and leaping ability, there is not much he lacks if the goal is to be a top wideout. Asked where he’s grown the most since last season, he pointed to his knowledge of the offense.
“I think knowing every single position as a wide receiver,” he said. “Once you pat down one or two positions, you get to kind of go around and learn more of the offense. Not just Z and X, Y and F also.
“You never know what can happen in a game where you might have to take that position and take over. Just learning all the positions at wideout is good for me.
“This isn’t like school — this comes a lot easier for me because I love it because I’d rather do this than write a paper,” he added with a chuckle. “I think I’m in a great position now and I’m just learning very quickly.”
Chandler Jones is loving life
The team’s most notable offseason acquisition, nary a bad thing has been said about Chandler Jones, the former New England Patriot in his Cardinals tenure.
In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Anytime Jones is brought up, praise has followed.
With the Week 1 opener against his former team getting closer by the day, the question is: Is Jones comfortable with his new surroundings and the defense he is a part of?
“I love it, I love it,” he said. “I always talk about in previous interviews about me standing up as an outside linebacker, as opposed to playing defensive end, I’m a true outside linebacker now, dropping into coverage. But it’s a fun challenge, for sure, and I’m enjoying it.”
Jones, who had 12.5 sacks last year and has 36 in his four NFL seasons, said he hasn’t had trouble picking up the new defense.
“It’s not too different from New England, honestly, it’s just different terminology,” he said.
But while Arizona’s defense may not be all that different from New England’s, the fact is the Cardinals are not the Patriots. Now, most people would be upset over being traded away from an organization that has had as much success as New England, but Jones has had nothing but positive things to say about Arizona.
He was reecently quoted in an article talking about how he thanked Patriots coach Bill Belichick for, well, not sending the Pro Bowler to a bad team.
“Great team, very great team,” he said of the Cardinals. “The Cardinals are always a contender, and like I said in a previous interview, I was a fan of the Cardinals before being here. Whenever I played Madden I would pick the Cardinals. I’m excited — for sure, I’m excited to be here.”
Speaking of Madden, Jones said he’s not sure of what his rating is in this year’s game.
“Someone said it went down, so hopefully before preseason’s over I can get that back up,” he said.