I watched the Arizona Cardinals Red/White Practice on Saturday night so that you didn't have to.
And it was as boring as its ever been which was oddly comforting in 2020. In less than two weeks, we will see the Cardinals attempt to overturn the NFC West in Week 1 against the defending NFC West/NFC champs, the San Francisco 49ers. With no preseason games, this is our only public look at the team until then.
Here are the three biggest takeaway's I had with the following caveats:
- I understand this is one training camp practice
- I understand that on field work was completely disrupted this offseason putting all players on a different schedule than normal, especially rookie
- I understand that very few of the Cardinals best players even participated in 11 on 11 drills
That didn't stop me from unearthing these nuggets:
Isaiah Simmons Looks Uncomfortable at ILB
- I watched Simmons intently when he was on the field and he just looks out of position. Inside linebacker is best suited for instinctual, stocky players who are fearless at sticking their noses in fans and making plays. The position requires an ability to watch a traffic accident pile up players in front of them and make real time, instant decisions on whether to go around the crash or dive in. Plays are mostly made in a box at ILB. Simmons is a lanky, freak athlete who thrives in space. He played tentative in the box Saturday. The only silver lining was Simmons covering a RB down the sideline stride for stride on an incompletion. Thriving at ILB requires more Evan Weaver than Simmons and I think Weaver will play more there this year on the field. Simmons would appear to be a more natural prospect at OLB where his length, quick twitch athleticism and speed would be better utilized. The problem at OLB for Simmons is he'd likely have to add 20-30 pounds which may make him less useful in a hybrid defender role. I'm not saying Simmons is going to be a bust, please see my qualifiers above, but I do think the more time Simmons spends at ILB, the more time the Cardinals are wasting in his development. And I completely understand that ultimately the Cardinals envision him as a hybrid defender but he still stood out for his discomfort at the position on Saturday. Meanwhile Mekhi Bechton is opening eyes in Jets camp...
Andy Isabella Caught a Ball!
- This is real news for a 2nd year professional football player drafted in the 2nd round of the 2019 NFL draft as a wide receiver. And if you think I'm the only one that noticed, you definitely didn't watch the practice. As soon as Isabella caught a ball early in the 11 on 11 drills, Cardinals employees Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley lost their minds. Both yelled at how happy they were to see Isabella catch a ball with his hands, not his body, and how much improvement Isabella was making. And they were justified. Just to reiterate, Andy Isabella did not recently emerge from a coma; he's a fully healthy 2nd year WR getting praised for catching a football properly. I understand the excitement, his speed could make this offense even healthier, but its still mind boggling that's where we are with Isabella.
The RB Depth Is Impressive
- We know Kenyan Drake can thrive in this offense for 8 games. We know Chase Edmonds can thrive in this offense for at least one game. We didn't know what else the Cardinals had at RB. After passing on adding any veteran insurance to the position this offseason, the Cardinals seem to be counting on 7th rounder Eno Benjamin to fortify their depth. And after watching Benjamin on Saturday, they were totally right in their decision making. After breaking through a big hole and gaining huge yardage, Benjamin came back the next play and made a great cut back against the grain to score the first TD of the practice. Even Jonathan Ward looked solid as he tries to make the team or practice squad. This group looks rock solid heading into the season.