GLENDALE, Ariz. — The question has been posed to a few Arizona Cardinals in the past few days: Is it possible that receivers DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk could each challenge for 1,000-yard seasons this year?
Let’s not get too crazy.
While head coach Kliff Kingsbury wouldn’t dismiss that thought, it’s just a matter of whether Arizona will find itself passing enough for all three to reach that plateau.
“They’re all so talented. There’s definitely potential there. It definitely depends on how many throws we have,” he said.
Balance remains on the forefront of Kingsbury’s mind, and as much as he developed a reputation for letting quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes sling it 60-plus times back in his Texas Tech days, there’s a reason the team enters 2020 with tight ends being far from afterthoughts.
“I think it’s a good thing for us,” tight end Maxx Williams said. “I mean, we worked hard last year to kind of show we wanted to be part of this offense and that we could try and really contribute. I think bringing in a guy like Dan Arnold last year really helped give us confidence and we’re really trying to build that this year in camp.”
Their usage, and the addition of Kenyan Drake, had a lot to do with the team finishing second with just better than 5.0 yards per rush for the season.
“We showed that we can establish the run as the year went on,” Williams added. “I think that’s more than just the tight ends, credit to the O-line, credit to Kyler for doing what he’s doing.”
What to do with no preseason?
No NFL preseason means the Cardinals fall into a true training camp schedule without the rhythm heading into the regular season. A month of that, and then they open against the San Francisco 49ers on the road.
Oh, and the Cardinals also don’t want to rush their players back with heavy days of contact practices leading to injuries.
It’s a balancing act of keeping players safe while avoiding the shock of the NFL physicality when the regular season begins.
“We will script in more (offense vs. defense situations), just to get some of that live-action,” Kingsbury said. “I’ve been accustomed to a similar schedule in college.”
Arizona is practicing six days in a row starting this week, which could wear on a team. Without the preseason, there are no travel days, game days or recovery days to worry about.
“I like how you’re able to just continue the installs,” Kingsbury said.
Maybe that will help rookies, who are likely trying to keep their heads above water, earn valuable on-field time as veterans take lighter days. More walkthroughs will benefit all of the newer players. Still:
“You got to find a way to fit in those moments of competition and live competition,” Kingsbury said.
Safety Budda Baker, who led the NFL in solo tackles a year ago, knows that he must prepare for the physicality with more scrimmage-type practice opportunities.
“We’ll definitely be hitting pretty soon here,” he said.
— Kingsbury on Baker: “I saw a guy who continues to improve each year. Budda is a fearless player. He is one of those lions, if you will, when he’s out on that field. He’s not afraid of anybody, and he plays that way. The guys feed off that.”
— Speaking of the passing game, expect Drake to be a bigger part of that this year. While Kingsbury said the running back who was signed to a transition tag will improve this year by knowing the nuances of the offense — specifically regarding pre-snap keys — the head coach added that Drake’s individual work this summer involved working on his pass-catching.
— Rookie running back and Arizona State product Eno Benjamin is expected to find a special teams role. Whether that involves kick returns, something he dabbled in as a freshman in college, remains to be seen. Said Kingsbury of the seventh-round pick: “He’s definitely got quite a personality. He’s kind of a free spirit, super productive at Arizona State. He has a knack for finding the hole, no doubt. He’s got to find a role contributing on special teams and he knows that.”