GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins and cornerback Robert Alford were the two notably absent players for the team’s first padded practice on Monday.
While reports from NFL Network indicate Alford is getting evaluated for a pectoral injury suffered on Sunday, head coach Kliff Kingsbury spoke with little concern about his newly acquired receiver, who sat out Sunday and Monday with a tight left hamstring.
“He’s working, getting better each day and I expect him back soon,” Kingsbury said on a Zoom call Monday.
The head coach added that the missed time is not concerning for the four-time Pro Bowl receiver.
“It’s not. He’s been so productive in this league, he’s a pro’s pro when it comes to knowing what it takes for him to have his body ready and his mind ready to perform in Week 1,” Kingsbury said. “You’d obviously like (quarterback) Kyler (Murray) to get a few more reps with him but they got some great work in in the summer.”
Drake has big goals
Kenyan Drake is getting paid like one of the NFL’s top backs while on a one-year transition tag. But the Cardinals’ No. 1 rushing threat will have a tough time reaching last year’s production simply because it seems unsustainable.
A touchdown per game and 5.2 yards per carry won’t be easy to obtain over a full season.
Why might he feel like it’s possible?
“This year I was able to kind of start from I guess scratch and get the meat and potatoes of the why behind many plays,” Drake said.
Kingsbury said that Drake now has an understanding of what a pre-snap look by a defense should tell him to do within the offense. Last year, the running back was playing chess a piece at a time without considering the rest of the board.
“I think he was just taking the ball and playing on instinct, honestly,” Kingsbury said of Drake’s success after being acquired from the Miami Dolphins in a midseason trade. “His attitude, his drive to be one of the best backs in the league, his want-to is phenomenal.”
It won’t be necessarily a step backward if Drake does not average 5.2 yards per carry this year.
Maybe the most compelling area where improvement can tangibly take place is in the passing game. Knowing where to sit down in the flat against a certain defense — and by knowing where his teammates will not be on a given play — could make Drake a dangerous threat for Murray.
“I’ve always saw myself as a versatile back. I’ve caught 100 balls in two years the last couple years,” Drake said Monday. “I’m excited to continue to head in the right trajectory in that department, especially with getting a better grip on the playbook this year from the passing game perspective. Just getting a little more trust in Kyler and me, and my ability to go out there, be one-on-one against a linebacker, safety and win that matchup more times than not.
“That’s what the game is coming to nowadays.”
— Kingbury said it’ll be fairly easy to evaluate the position battle at right tackle between Kelvin Beachum and Justin Murray — even without games. “Luckily for us,” Kingsbury said, “we’re going to get a ton of reps against Chandler Jones. That’s a great measure of whether you can hold up in this league.”
— Second-year safety Jalen Thompson on the differences between Air Raid innovator Mike Leach, his college coach at Washington State, and Kliff Kingsbury, who played in college for Leach at Texas Tech: “Not really too much. Coach Kliff is more of the cool, laid-back coach, more of a players’ coach.
“Coach Leach is kind of a — just more of a weird guy (laughs). They’re a lot different. Yeah, they don’t have too many sayings that … are the same. I feel like both coaches are good coaches. I was glad I got to play for Leach and see his coaching style and play for Kliff — and I like his coaching style as well.”