Time is running short for the Arizona Cardinals to make roster decisions, yet three new faces are hoping to stand out in the defensive backfield.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick signed with Arizona on Sunday after the Cardinals added nickel B.W. Webb and corner Ken Crawley at the end of last week. All three of those players have worked in defenses similar to what Cardinals coordinator Vance Joseph runs, and Kirkpatrick did so directly under Joseph as a young player with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2014-15.
“Well, Dre has been a starting corner in this league for the last four or five years,” Joseph said. “He’s had some really good years in this league. He’s excited about being here and he’s obviously familiar with most of our system but some things have changed in the last four to five years when it comes to my system. We’re excited to have Dre here and we’ll see how it shakes out.”
Kirkpatrick signed just before practice and was not on the field Sunday. He and the two other veteran newcomers must make impressions before the Sept. 5 deadline for 53-man roster cuts.
The learning curve for them may not be steep, but they still have to convince the Cardinals they will add value with returnees Byron Murphy, Kevin Peterson and Chris Jones already familiar in Joseph’s defense.
Undrafted rookie Jace Whittaker and second-year pro Jalen Davis have also stood out in camp at the nickel spot with Murphy still taking first-team reps at cornerback.
“That young guy has made some plays,” Joseph said of Whittaker. “He’s made some plays but he’s still a rookie. It’s tough to tell how far he’s come in practice in a controlled environment.”
The fourth, fifth and possibly sixth corner/nickel positions remain “up for grabs,” Joseph said.
False positives come at a good time
At least 10 NFL teams from the Midwest to the East Coast were impacted Sunday by false coronavirus positive tests. They were linked to a specific lab in New Jersey, and the issue kept handfuls of players from participating in practices Sunday.
Cardinals offensive lineman Justin Pugh said that the blips at least give the NFL the opportunity to find solutions before the regular season begins.
“It’s definitely a concern. I’m glad we’re starting to figure the kinks out while we’re in training camp,” Pugh said.
Joseph added that the Cardinals believe they have remained urgent in keeping up with protocols.
“Our guys so far have done a great job from a team standpoint, from a player standpoint,” the defensive coordinator said. “We’ve been really informing players of what to do on a daily basis and not to get complacent with this virus because once it strikes, it’s ongoing.”
— Receiver DeAndre Hopkins went through warmups without a helmet and then did not participate in individual skill drills with the wide receivers during the portion of practice open to the media on Sunday. He had gone through at least skill drills last week but apparently is still taking it easy with hamstring tightness.
— Tight end Maxx Williams, who missed two practices at the end of last week, was again not participating in practice. Also not there were OLB Chandler Jones, RT Kelvin Beachum and NT Corey Peters.
— Pugh on whether the Cardinals look at averaging better than 5.0 yards per carry last year and can reset the franchise mark again this year: “Obviously we want to be better. It would be foolish not to.”
— Rookie defensive tackle Leki Fotu said he is targeting losing weight as he transitions to an attacking interior rushing role as a pro. A nose tackle in college at Utah, he is down to 335 pounds and wants to shed 10 more pounds.
— Fotu, on not wearing gloves and losing finger nails at times: “On those days my nails come off, it’s a sign to me I should have clipped my nails before going out there.”