Background: Jan 2, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Arizona Cardinals Antoine Wesley (85) catches a touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman
I don’t know about you, but after the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury and I went to watch a number of his games at Texas Tech, one of the players who stood out big-time was WR Antione Wesley.
Like Kliff Kingsbury has done with DeAndre Hopkins, at Texas Tech, Tweezy was the wide receiver who habitually lined up wide to the left. His route tree was: (1) quick out; (2) deep out; (3) go route; (4) comeback; (5) back shoulder sideline; (6) fade; (7) quick slant; (8) drag; (9) deep crosser; (10) post.
Tweezy’s breakout season was his junior year in 2018, during the final year of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure at TTU, He caught 88 passes for 1,410 yards (16.0 ave.) and 9 TDs, which landed him on a number of All-American teams.
There’s no question that Kyler Murray must have taken notice of Tweezy’s size and skill when Tweezy put up 12 catches for 199 yards versus in Texas Tech’s near upset of Kyler’s Sooners.
After watching the tape on Antoine Wesley, I was convinced that the Cardinals would draft him, especially after Tweezy elected to come out early and enter the 2019 NFL Draft, Kingsbury’s first in Arizona.
As we well know, the Cardinals drafted three wide receivers in Kingsbury’s first draft —- Andy Isabella (R2), Hakeem Butler (R4) and KeeSean Johnson (R6). Of the three, only Andy Isabella is still with the team, and has yet to crack the WR rotation this season, while listed on the team’s depth chart as the backup to A.J. Green.
Apparently, the Cardinals were receiving some interest at the trading deadline for Isabella. However, no trade evolved and the question is whether the Cardinals still have a plan for Andy, or will they try to trade him this off-season?
Back to the 2019 draft, it was very surprising, at least to me and perhaps you, that Antoine Wesley went undrafted. What likely cost him was not running the 40 at the Combine and then posting a 4.68 at his pro day. Wesley might have also had a medical flag on him for the torn labrum he suffered back in his sophomore season at TTU, which may have accounted for the reason why he was only able to put up 6 reps at 225 at the Combine. However, the eye-popping numbers at the Combine was Wesley at 6-4 boasting a 37” vertical and a 7.07 three cone.
I am going to bet that because the Cardinals drafted three WRs in the 2019 draft, Antoine Wesley decided to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens, instead.
Wesley spent a year on the Ravens’ practice squad and then in his second training camp he suffered yet another shoulder injury and was placed on injured reserve, thus ending his 2020 season before it had begun.
It was interesting to hear Kliff Kingsbury say this week that the Cardinals had told Wesley and his agent that once he was healthy, they would have a roster spot waiting for him.
Thus, on May 21, 2021, the Cardinals signed Antoine Wesley
And, of course, now after Tweezy’s breakout 2 TD game during the Cardinals’ 25-22 upset of the Dallas Cowboys, it’s beginning to look like Antoine Wesley and Greg Dortch (signed by Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2019) may be the only eligible WRs from the 2019 draft to have a potential future with the Cardinals beyond this season.
Is Antoine Wesley what we realistically hoped Hakeem Butler would be?— Kyle (@marblekyle) January 3, 2022
In my opinion, the answer to Kyle’s astute question is two-fold. On the one hand, yes, Tweezy is on the roster and is now a major contributor on the field, both as a receiver and as a downfield blocker (did you notice the excellent downfield blocks that Tweezy and A.J. Green were making on the Cardinals chunk yard perimeter runs versus the Cowboys?). Yet, on the other other hand, the great intrigue about Hakeem Butler, at his size and speed, was how he excelled in the slot at Iowa St., particularly in his ability to generate powerful RACs over the middle. Tweezy has yet to show whether he can make good RAC plays over the middle in the NFL.
But, what Tweezy is ideally suited for is the jump ball go and fade routes that Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray love to call up that left sideline.
Here is a good, close look at Tweezy’s two TD catches versus the Cowboys:
On the first TD, which was a key 4th and goal play with the Cardinals up 3-0, Wesley did a great, patient job of selling the run by blocking down inside to help seal the corner, and just as his man, CB Anthony Brown (#20) left Wesley to go chase the run, Antoine slipped toward to back side of the end zone to give Kyler Murray a straight shot at him. It looked like Kyler’s pass may have been slightly tipped by Randy Gregory’s outstretched arms, because the pass came out wobbly. Yet, Antoine never appeared to fight the pass and plucked it cleanly for the TD.
On the second TD, this is where Antoine’s length, leverage, 37” vertical and superb hands in high-pointing the ball with the ability to secure the catch and get both his feet down into the field of play —- plus Kyler Murray’s ability to arch the pass to the exact spot where Wesley and only Wesley can make the catch —- are fabulously textbook.
When you look at how excited Kyler Murray was to see Antoine came down the ball much the same way DeAndre Hopkins does on those arced passes a yard or two inside the left pylon, it is clear that while the Cardinals can never replace Hopkins, they still can win on these type of bread and butter throws from Kyler, with Wesley.
Yup, Tweezy does it!
Which prompted my birdgang friend Peter (@p_rock88) to pose this question:
Cardinals Thoughts :- Question for my fellow #BirdGang & #RedSea - Should AZ bring back Antoine Wesley for the WR2 spot opposite D-Hop?.. Can he get 800 - 1000 yards, 8 - 10 TD's?.. @WBJMItch @jokomo13 @cardsfanjoanna - Would love to hear all your thoughts.— Peter (P_Dubzz88) (@p_rock88) January 3, 2022
I am going to leave Peter’s question for all of you. What do you think of Antoine Wesley’s future with the Cardinals and what role do envision for him in the offense moving forward? Tweezy is an exclusive right s free agent in 2020, meaning that if the Cardinals offer him a contract at the league minimum, Tweezy will accept the offer because he is not yet eligible to negotiate with other teams.