It appeared that the Arizona Cardinals doubled down on the tight end position this offseason to develop a more physical brand of offense. And by letting star linebacker Chandler Jones walk, it appeared strength in numbers would likewise shift their makeup on the defensive end.
Those assumptions were empowered by the team’s actions in the draft.
After trading their first-round pick for receiver Hollywood Brown, the Cardinals used a second-round choice on tight end Trey McBride, a productive and versatile player out of Colorado State.
Arizona then pulled the trigger on third-round picks Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders, two different types of pass rushers at outside linebacker.
So far, that trio has hardly been on the field. McBride has six offensive snaps, while on defense Thomas has eight to Sanders’ zero.
Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Friday asked Cardinals general manager Steve Keim if it concerns him that top-100 draft picks have yet to make a mark.
“Well, it’s always a concern. You’d love to see guys come in right away,” Keim said. “But I think realistically when you talk about middle-round picks, they will generally take some time. It’s not so much a physical thing … it’s the speed of the game and size of the playbook and some of the adjustments you have to make on the fly.
“I know there’s a lot going through those guys’ heads, but in practice I know they’ve continued to look better and I know they will get more opportunities as we get down the stretch.”
The current rookies’ lack of impact continues a trend under the team coached by head coach Kliff Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Cardinals rookies under the current coaching regime have not found it easy to earn immediate playing time.
The blame could be on misevaluations in the draft process or a failure to prepare young, talented players.
Keim was asked if there is any type of disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff.
“Well, I don’t know any guys that we’ve drafted who our coaches didn’t like so I’d say that’d have to be a ‘no,’” Keim said Friday.
Most notably, first-round picks Isaiah Simmons (2020) and Zaven Collins (2021) were brought along slowly the past two years and still have yet to announce themselves as reliable NFL players.
In his fourth NFL season, receiver Andy Isabella, a second-round pick, can’t enter the receiver rotation despite injuries and a DeAndre Hopkins suspension opening the door for more snaps.
Third-round picks in defensive end Zach Allen (2019) and offensive lineman Josh Jones (2020) have taken small steps forward each season and appear to be legitimate players. But they’ve taken time to get there.
Among the immediate successes are quarterback Kyler Murray, who played immediately as the No. 1 overall pick in 2019. Classmate Byron Murphy did so after being taken at the beginning of the second round — he was one of the most-targeted defensive backs in the NFL that rookie season but has rounded into form to become a legitimate starter.
Fourth-rounder Marco Wilson was thrust into a similar role as Murphy last year, if only because of things outside of the Cardinals’ control such as veteran Malcolm Butler’s sudden departure from the team before the regular season started.
And fellow 2021 draftee Rondale Moore, a second-round pick, made a decent enough impact his rookie season, compiling 435 receiving yards.