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Cardinals’ rookies saw increased playing time in Thursday’s win over Saints

Cardinals’ rookies carving out a role on the team

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Entering the season, the Arizona Cardinals’ rookie draft class was not expected to have much of an impact especially with heavy veteran presence on top of the depth chart.

In recent weeks, the Cardinals released linebacker Devon Kennard and tight end Maxx Williams, who was re-signed to the practice squad, to pave way for the rookies to see more action on game day.

In last Thursday’s win over the New Orleans Saints, most of Arizona’s rookies were, in fact, more involved than they have been in the weeks before.

Round 2, No. 55 overall: Trey McBride - Tight End

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

McBride played in 52 percent of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps (34) and 75 percent of special teams snaps (24) in last week’s home win against the Saints. Both are season highs in playing time for the rookie. He finished the game without a target but made one tackle on special teams. McBride is seeing an increased role as an inline blocker with Maxx Williams now on the practice squad.

Round 3, No. 87 overall: Cam Thomas - Outside Linebacker

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

Just like McBride, Cam Thomas logged season highs in snaps on defense (24) and special teams (6) which were 33 percent and 19 percent respectively. In 20 pass rush snaps on Thursday, Thomas created three pressures with one resulting in an Andy Dalton interception to Isaiah Simmons that was returned for a touchdown. In the previous week against the Seahawks, Thomas recorded his first NFL sack. He should continue to see an increase in playing time based off the last two weeks alone.

Round 3, No. 100 overall: Myjai Sanders - Outside Linebacker

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Sanders was inactive the first four weeks of the season but received some playing time the last three games. He logged 22 percent of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps (16), which is a season high for him. You can see the bend, foot quickness, and overall speed that Sanders has as a pass rusher which is why he was a third-round selection. Being able to finish plays and wrap up the opposition remains something he needs to work on. Thomas and Sanders both benefitted from Kennard’s release and the inactive status of Dennis Gardeck.

Round 6, No. 201 overall: Keaontay Ingram - Running Back

New Orleans Saints v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals are deep at the running back position. With James Conner, Darrel Williams, and Jonathan Ward sidelined with injuries, Kliff Kingsbury turned to Eno Benjamin and rookie Keaontay Ingram to lead the running back backfield. Benjamin was electric with over 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Ingram was quick to make a good impression as a ball carrier and pass catcher out of the backfield as well. He had 14 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries and two catches for 23 receiving yards. Ingram had a 12-yard touchdown negated by a penalty. Just like the draft picks above him, he saw a season-high in playing time with 20 offensive snaps.

Round 7, No. 256 overall: Jesse Luketa - Outside Linebacker

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Luketa made a tackle for loss on defense and played a big role on special teams with 56 percent of snaps (18) played. His speed and power were on display in the limited role he was given on defense. Luketa was drafted to potentially be a special teams ace and his expanded role on Sunday, albeit inactives and releases, has the rookie trending in that direction.

Other rookie draft picks:

Marquis Hayes - Guard (IR)

Christian Matthew - Cornerback

Lecitus Smith -Guard/Center