Every year it’s the same thing, over and over again when it comes to the Red-White practice.
The Arizona Cardinals see an influx of fans to the free event...
Michael Bidwill and the team’s head coach greets the crowd...
Any player who made a Pro Bowl (usually Budda Baker at this point) gets honored...
And the team has a live scrimmage in front of the audience.
You could call it boring or repetitive if you wanted. However, this year in particular for the Cardinals has seen a fresh new shot in the arm with a new general manager on the sideline, a new coaching staff, and a draft class that was lauded by media.
There’s a sliver of hope, and while that seems to be the case for every NFL team this year, it’s a bit different because it’s not necessarily about wins or losses for Cardinals fans.
It’s about hope that the culture change of this new staff will legitimately stick this time.
Now, onto the takeaways:
#1. Paris Johnson Jr. continues to look like a rookie starter at Right Tackle
When D.J. Humphries joined the Arizona Cardinals as a rookie in 2015, he was called “Knee-Deep” by his coach, was hurt and sat for a year behind an entrenched veteran in Bobbie Massie and ultimately, turned it around.
The Cardinals have seen difficulties in getting their rookies on the field, especially their first-round picks, under the Steve Keim and Bruce/Steve/Kliff Eras.
Not only does this new regime seem to be changing that, but Paris Johnson has thus far been almost a model player, showing a different form of work ethic & commitment than Humphries to the point where despite different journeys, you feel like they might have had two roads that were traveled but in the end there will be one destination.
A starting tackle in the National Football League. Paris has lived up to the lofty status thus far in holding off long-time veteran Kelvin Beachum for the job.
#2. RB2 might be the brand new guy
Marlon Mack had a long 15 yard burst up the middle, and with how the Cardinals have seen Keontay Ingram injured and little experience behind James Conner, he might end up being more valuable of a signing than was expected at first.
With how the Cardinals are going to run the ball more this year, having a back who can spell James Conner will be key.
Speaking of the man nicknamed “The Terminator”...
#3. James Conner’s amazing catch reminds you that he’s a star
Anytime you have a 6’2 230 lb. running back who can make a play like THIS over Budda Baker’s head, you have to give props.
#4. Isaiah Simmons seems more confident and comfortable at safety than he ever did at linebacker
At this point it feels almost unfair to keep dogging former GM Steve Keim and the last Cardinals’ regime but with how his length, speed and athleticism have translated thus far to the deep center-fielder position, it’s hard not to notice.
It’s still training camp. When teams are game-planning and doing a lot more trickeration it’ll be up to Simmons’ mental aptitude in the game to be in the right place and not be fooled but so far we’ve seen flashes at that spot, and allowing Budda Baker to roam and see Jalen Thompson at the nickel has been a solid use of Arizona’s talented safety trio.
#5. Greg Dortch & Michael Wilson look ready to get a lot of reps
The current Quarterback situation for Arizona isn’t optimistic. And they are still seemingly looking for their 2nd corner. There’s questions at each level of the defense and also at Tight End without a healthy Trey McBride.
But there’s two things that DO look good for Arizona...
First is that while he’s been splitting time between the first and second team, fan favorite slot WR Greg Dortch has been...having a really good camp.
He led the NFL last year with 4.2 yards average yards of separation last season per route run (yep, the entire league) and has continued getting open & using his speed from the slot. While Rondale Moore might still see snaps, Dortch has been impossible to ignore and I think he could make the leap to being their full-time slot guy.
As far as impossible to ignore...the same can be said about Michael Wilson.
Wilson had 2 TD’s in the scrimmage today and measuring in a 6’2, 215 is a prototypical X-receiver size compared to the other 5’9 receivers on the team in Brown, Moore and Dortch.
I don't want to put too much stock on training camp performances but...— Andy Kwong (@akwong31) August 5, 2023
Michael Wilson looks the part. Plays fast and physical.
If the #AZCardinals' rookie class contributes greatly for AZ in year one, that's a big W and a huge step up from the previous regime #RedSea
It feels like the rookie, if healthy, could make some plays this year, and long-term you hope he might end up a steal for this new regime.
That’s all for now, we have a preseason game ahead against Russell Wilson, Sean Payton & a Broncos starting unit coming up as the season gets closer and closer.