The latest episode of Cardinals Flight Plan went live, and only about 2 weeks after the NFL Draft came to a close for the 2020 NFL offseason. With it came an inside, in-depth look behind the scenes to the Arizona Cardinals.
If you haven’t checked out the latest episode yet, you can watch it on the team’s Youtube channel below:
So, what were 10 takeaways from the latest episode?
There were a LOT given the nature of this year’s NFL draft so let’s take a look:
#1. The inside look from the combine interviews was a treat...as was Kliff’s prediction following the Isaiah Simmons interview
The idea of private combine interviews with players has slowly been cracked open to fans through the work of Cardinals flight plan. In 2019, Dru Grigson gave a bit of an insight into what questions they ask, the narrative that they use and more information for the first personal introduction and interaction the main decision makers in the NFL have to the players.
This year, we finally got some audio to go with it. And it was chock full of intriguing bits.
Simmons breaking down a defensive scheme he played at Clemson “Cover 4 if TE attached, drop to the edge to cover or hit the flat route if ID’ing the #2 guy on the play.
It was Honey Badger-esque as the Cardinals’ newest pick showed the difference between him and a lot of players in the league who are only good at doing ONE thing was pretty vast.
For a good example, there are players who are excellent in man coverage, but get lost as soon as their responsibility shifts to a zone coverage. Simmons, on the other hand, was in complete control of the defensive scheme in the interview, and fans got to get a peek into why Arizona was impressed enough to take him at #8 overall.
It was an AWESOME segment, and even had a nostradamus-like prediction:
Kliff Kingsbury on Isaiah Simmons immediately after their combine interview:— NFL Film Review (@NFLFilmReview) May 8, 2020
He was their guy from the very beginning. pic.twitter.com/VpkdgpzTWA
#2. Sean Kugler sounds like how you’d expect an offensive line coach to sound while running Josh Jones through a terminology gauntlet
Breaking down the different fronts that the Cardinals OL faced might get lost to an average fan, but it’s crucial for NFL OL play:
Basically, if the OL identifies a defensive front, they will have a certain blocking scheme that they will deploy based on film and blitzes or bailed coverages that they will see.
So, being able to identify these fronts and learn them in a short period of time for each week (as teams will change up their calls and tendencies so they don’t get too comfortable) is one of the more difficult requirements in the league.
Third-round draft selection @JoshJones_23 nailed his first test with OL Coach Sean Kugler at the #NFLCombine.— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) May 6, 2020
Watch this and an exclusive look at how the #NFLDraft unfolded on #CardsFlightPlan, “Drafting Away”, Thursday night on YouTube. pic.twitter.com/2cXnvdDQ0Z
And Jones passed the test with flying colors, going 100% on the different Cardinals’ fronts and showing he had the smarts to go with his physicality and technique.
Coach Kugler (who sounds like a gruff ex-Marine exactly how you’d love for your OL coach) was impressed with the kid. And Kugler is showcasing himself as a critical part of the Cardinals building to the future after the team’s offensive line improvement.
#3. Steve Keim was as giddy as its fans were about Simmons being the pick at 8...
I won’t go into the multiple expletives that Steve Keim used as this is a family website but I’ll leave it up to your imagination.
#4. We now know how high Josh Jones was ranked on the Cardinals’ board...and we know how giddy the personnel team was about him falling to pick 72.
Keim confirms that Josh Jones was their 21st rated player. pic.twitter.com/K8rOfkM73K— NFL Film Review (@NFLFilmReview) May 8, 2020
Keim said they had a top 30 grade on him, and he was the 21st ranked player on their board as they revealed in Flight Plan. And no one knows why he fell that far.
#5. The Cards as a team had a 2nd-3rd round grade on Leki Fotu
The team raved about Fotu, and given how interested they were in Derrick Brown, getting Fotu to where he was in the 4th makes it seem possible that he might have been their 3rd round pick. Instead they get him AND Josh Jones.
No wonder Keim felt like things were turning up their way repeatedly.
#6. The team nabbing Fotu and Lawrence felt a lot like last year’s draft...and they were going to take Lawrence with that pick all along
Given he went one pick previously and played against Texas Tech in the Big 12, some thought that the Cardinals meeting often with Baylor DL James Lynch meant he might have been the pick here.
Instead, Arizona was revealed to have been targeting the LSU defensive lineman with the pick they got back from the Houston Texans with that selection all along. Lawrence seems fun and with a personality like that, he might be a popular player and great interview.
#7. RB’s Coach James Saxon played a hand in bringing Eno Benjamin back home to Arizona, and to also finally play for Kliff Kingsbury
This makes a lot of sense given Saxon’s typical RB is a patient, space-conscious type of back who can create and trust his blockers, a lot like his former RB Le’Veon Bell with the Steelers.
While that’s not Eno, he certainly shares some of those same patient traits, and it shows how Arizona relies on the expertise of their coaching staff as well as their scouts as to insight with their players.
#8. Keim showed off some of their work as a family man, and also a bit of insight into the Cardinals’ grading scheme via his son
For general managers, one thing can take you away from the pressure of your job: kids.— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) May 5, 2020
See how GM Steve Keim navigates the #NFLDraft as well as finding time for his four children on #CardsFlightPlan: “Drafting Away”, Thursday on YouTube. pic.twitter.com/NprOk3Pugt
Ever since his much-publicized DUI in 2018, Steve Keim’s been a bit of a public enemy for many Cardinals fans. Add in missed draft picks and even the #FireKeim tag that popped up this past season and it’s easy to dehumanize the people who are in this organization.
We last checked in on Keim’s family in 2016 on All Or Nothing, and not much has changed for him in his interactions with his kids since then. It puts things in a different, human perspective, and I loved the fact that he conducted the interview with his son next to him.
Maybe Cards fans will start to see him in a different light & give a little bit of mercy? (Hey, DeAndre Hopkins and Isaiah Simmons and Josh Jones don’t hurt).
Keim’s encouragement of his son’s new passion for scouting players was also fun, and reminded me of my interactions with a former scouting boss who helped shows some of the ropes. What else I found interesting?
We got some insight into the Cards’ grading scale, which is done on a 10 point curve, or basically a 100 point system (think a 99 rating on Madden)
What’s unique about this is that every team uses a different grading system or scale. Lance Zierlein on NFL.com uses an 8 point scale with 8.0 as the perfect prospect. Below is a Raiders version (as of a few years ago) with a 9 point scale.
What it means for Arizona having a 10 point one is that there’s a LOT more finer details and less shared grades. So a 9.2 grade for Simmons essentially would categorize him as an “elite” prospect for Carson Keim in the Cards’ system.
I have a feeling his dad’s grade on him was pretty similar, no?
#9. Ocean 44 (and Steak 44)’s given a lot to the Cards and Fitz helped them give back
The Cardinals are frequent diners at both Ocean 44 and Steak 44 in Scottsdale, a prime night-time eatery in the valley. In fact, some (in too deep) Cards fans might remember a meeting they had with a prospect in the Arizona area that took place at that restaurant with a photo that was SUPPOSEDLY Kyler Murray during the 2019 pre-draft process (turned out it was actually the guy they took at 33).
To see them give back to the nurses and front-line workers and seeing Larry Fitzgerald step up to the plate was awesome to see. Be sure to support your local businesses and eateries using #CardsCarryOut just like Larry did and make sure that your community won’t be missing guys who are great at giving back.
#10. The episode felt too short...in a good way...
It was clearly due to the coronavirus that we didn’t get to know the players themselves a bit better
It took me a bit to realize when the episode was ending why it felt like it was either short or missing something and I realized that it was because in previous years, the team followed around their first round pick’s first visit to the facility.
We saw Josh Rosen get a text from Sam Bradford as he came into the Cards room and did his first press conference...and then a year later they both were gone and Kyler Murray and his family came in leading to a fun meeting w/ his dad and talk of shoes while the other two were nowhere to be seen.
Which, yeah, kinda stinks for fans as much as the team
Obviously, due to the coronavirus there’s restrictions and the inability to do an in-person press conference in that regard, which is the new reality everyone’s living in. So that content will have to wait, for who knows how long?
The season schedule was dropped this past thursday but will we see it set in stone? Will games be shifted or delayed or will we see it at all this year?
There’s so much we don’t know, but I’m happy for content like this in the meantime.
#11. BONUS: I gotta get me one of these Kliff’s House T-shirts from Carson Keim:
Kliff even joked about a previous Flight Plan spot where Michael Bidwill joked about how bare his walls looked and they clearly recanted after seeing his immaculate spread. Kliff leaned into it and joked that he just had to change the angle all along.
It’s a fun time for the Cards and to be a fan. Here’s hoping the upcoming season, in whatever way or format, is just as quality despite the impact of the coronavirus as the work Tim DeLaney and his team has been putting out amidst this pandemic.