Dealing Cards: Harlan Miller set to make NFL debut in Seattle
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Cardinals chose Harlan Miller in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, making the Southeastern Louisiana cornerback the 205th overall selection.
He participated on OTAs, mini-camp, training camp and preseason — where he recorded four tackles — but since the regular season began, you haven’t really heard much about him.
This week, however, he was elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, which puts him in line to be active Saturday afternoon in Seattle.
Miller said this week has been exciting.
“I’ve been waiting since the season started to get my opportunity to show what I can do,” he said. “The coaches have faith in me to get the job done, so I’ve got to hold up on my end.”
On Tuesday, head coach Bruce Arians praised Miller’s work, saying he’s shown signs of the player they felt they drafted more than seven months ago.
“He’s got great ball skills and he’s smart,” the coach said. “He’s learning, again, how to be a professional coming from a smaller school.”
While Miller admitted it was tough waiting as long as he has, he said he’s definitely a better player now than when he first got to Arizona.
“I’ve improved my technique and my understanding of the game,” he said. “The coaches did a great job of helping me understand what I need to do to be successful on the field.”
Miller said the most important things he’s learned are how offenses will try to attack him as well as the schemes on special teams.
“I just need to know how to do it, and they taught me that,” he said.
How much Miller will play against Seattle and the specific role he will have remains to be seen, but he said he expects to be active. That means his NFL debut is on the horizon.
“I haven’t played since preseason so emotions are going to be pretty high,” he said. “But I’m going to have to bring them down to play my best.”
The official injury report can be found here, and it shows CB Marcus Cooper (back/calf), CB Brandon Williams (back) and tackle D.J. Humphries (concussion) missed Thursday’s practice.
The sure thing at cornerback
When it comes to the Cardinals’ secondary against the Seattle Seahawks this weekend, the one thing we do know is that Patrick Peterson will be on the field, likely matched up with Doug Baldwin.
He is the guy, Peterson said, is their No. 1 wideout.
“He’s the guy getting the most targets; he has the most yards,” Peterson said Thursday afternoon. “He’s been their focal point, as far as in the passing game for their offense over the last three years now.”
While not necessarily viewed as one of the NFL’s premier receivers, Baldwin leads the Seahawks with 79 catches, 913 yards and six touchdowns. His 103 targets are also tops for the team, well ahead of Jimmy Graham, who is second with 85.
Whether he is matched up on Baldwin for most of the afternoon or not — the Cardinals will be concerned with Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse and Graham, after all — Peterson will no doubt be asked to shut down whoever it is he’s defending.
As for who will be playing cornerback opposite him, that’s a different story.
With Cooper unlikely to play, according to Arians, Williams will probably get the nod opposite Peterson.
But regardless of who is in the secondary and against whom they are matched up, stopping Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will be quite a challenge. Unlike earlier in the season when these teams played and Wilson threw for 225 yards with no touchdowns and ran the ball just once, for minus-two yards, the QB is healthy and looking like his old self.
“He looks a little bit more mobile; he’s scrambling a little bit more now,” Peterson said. “He’s still looking to pass the ball, but he’s definitely taking off with the ball a little bit more.
“We have to make sure that we stay plastered on our coverages in back end, and hopefully don’t let those big plays, those scramble plays, those 10-second plays hurt us.”
So close, yet so far
The Cardinals’ road to 5-8-1 has been a long and bumpy one, with the reasons for their struggles many.
But the most frustrating aspect of their disappointing season, according to Arians, is the number of close losses.
After posting a 23-5 record in one-score games over Arians’ first three seasons with the team, the Cardinals have gone just 2-5-1 in such contests this year.
“Those were the games we’ve won for the last three or four years,” Arians said. “To not win them, you’ve really got to go back and really research why.”
As for whether he needs to review all of the film to figure out what went wrong, Arians said he already has an idea.
“It’s a play here or there, three kicks and a fumble and a couple other plays,” he said. “But you go back at the end of the season and you re-evaluate everything.”
That includes everything, from practices to his speeches, the latter of which aren’t difficult to track.
“I don’t give many so it’s kind of easy,” Arians said, with a laugh. “It’s just points of emphasis each week. I’m not a speech giver.”