Dealing Cards: John Brown feels more like himself now

Sep 16, 2016, 3:26 PM | Updated: 4:16 pm

New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) breaks up a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals...

New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) breaks up a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — When asked on Monday if receiver John Brown was still showing signs of rust after having missed most of the preseason due to a concussion, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he did not think there was any doubt.

“He missed way too much time,” the coach added.

Brown, who in 2015 caught 65 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns, was targeted just four times, catching one pass for eight yards.

It was apparent to anyone who watched the game that he did not look like the player he had been over his first two NFL seasons, the guy who has been nicknamed “Smokey.”

On Friday, Brown said after watching film from the game, he saw that, too.

“When I looked at that film I didn’t look too good, I didn’t look myself,” he said. “So yeah, I was kind of getting a little rust off.”

Brown said when he was playing in the game he felt fine, but the film showed otherwise.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this doesn’t look like me,'” he said. “I was like short on routes, I wasn’t explosive, I wasn’t moving how I usually move.”

Perhaps Brown’s issues should have been expected. He appeared briefly in the preseason finale, but otherwise hardly saw the field for any live-action after being entered into the league’s concussion protocol on Aug. 1. His recovery was slower than anticipated, and even after he was cleared to resume practicing a few weeks later there were instances where headaches were still problematic.

Brown did not want to use his lack of action as an excuse for his struggles, but if nothing else, it appears he is back on track. He said he has worked on being explosive and doing the small things in practice, and said the coaches have complemented him, telling him he looks like the old Smoke.

He concurs with their assessment, and said the concussion and subsequent issues are officially a thing of the past.

“This week, I’ve most definitely felt like myself,” he said. “It’s just like, I feel the confidence again, like, OK, I’m ready.”

Injury update

There are no real surprises on the Cardinals’ injury report, with only linebacker Kareem Martin and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker not practicing Friday due to knee injuries. Both were ruled out for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, though Arians said everyone else — a group that includes guard Evan Mathis, receiver J.J. Nelson and defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, who were all limited Friday — will be game-time decisions.

Don’t sleep on the Bucs’ defense

When it comes to Arizona’s Sunday opponent, much has been made of the Buccaneers’ explosive offense. With a young QB in Jameis Winston getting the ball to a bevvy of options that includes receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson as well as running back Doug Martin, it makes sense.

However, their defense might be just as impressive, and if not that, certainly something to be mindful of.

The biggest names belong in the box, with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Robert Ayers, along with linebakcers Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Daryl Smith all having shown an ability to be big-time players.

“They’re very good,” Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “A good 4-3 penetrating team. It’s something we probably haven’t gone against since last year.

“They’re a very good front; you can see it on tape, making plays, playing in peoples’ backfield. So it will be a challenge.”

The Cardinals, like a lot of teams these days, run a base 3-4 scheme, and depending on matchups, don’t often get a chance to have their offensive line work against a 4-3 defense.

Veldheer, though, does not see a lack of recent experience against such fronts as an issue.

“I don’t think it has a huge impact,” he said. “Everyone here has played vs. a 4-3 defense before, and then you practice it during the week and you go out there and play it during the game. I think people are used to it in the NFL just because you’ve got 4-3, 3-4, you’ve got those hybrid defenses. So no, that’s not a huge part. You practice it then you go play it.”

The newest cornerbacks

Tharold Simon has only been with the Cardinals for a couple of practices, but according to Arians, the early returns on his performance are positive. Though, he was a fan before the cornerback was a Cardinal.

“A long guy that can run,” he said of what he’s seen. “I really like the way he looks; he didn’t get much action, but on the scout team — and we played against him last year, so I kind of know what he looks like. Really glad to have him, I think he’s going to be a great addition.”

As for Marcus Cooper, who was acquired a week before the season opener in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs?

“Very good,” Arians said of how he looks. “He’ll get action this week.”

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