The first week-plus of Arizona Cardinals OTAs (organized team activities) have provided us with plenty to discuss regarding the rookies. Some have stood out as being nearly perfect, while others have yet to get on the field at all.
The team brought in 17 additional undrafted free agents for last Friday’s rookie minicamp. Head coach Bruce Arians said he does not care how each rookie landed on the roster; he will keep the best ones, according to Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds.
“We’ll swap them out,” Arians said. “That’s the cold part of the business. Every single day you’re being evaluated.”
We've highlighted four rookies through the first week of OTAs. These storylines are good enough to keep an eye on throughout the offseason.
John Brown Near Perfect
Receiver John Brown, a third-round pick, sat out practice late last week with hamstring tightness. Arians said the team will be cautious of how it uses him during OTAs because of how impressive he has been, according to Root’s report:
I’m going to be real careful with him. He was too impressive the first few days, not only speed and catching the ball, but he didn’t make any mistakes. One of the first rookies I’ve ever had in the first three days to not show up on the busted assignment sheet.
This is something to watch because Arizona signed veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. this offseason as its replacement for the departed Andre Roberts. Having been so impressive early on, can Brown take snaps away from Ginn as OTAs lead into Cards camp?
Speaking of Perfection…
Safety Deone Bucannon showed why general manager Steve Keim selected him in Round 1 of the NFL draft in early May. The rookie is a perfectionist, drawing both praise and a bit of advice from Arians and a young teammate, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com:
(Deone has) only got one problem—He is so much a perfectionist. It is paralysis by analysis right now because he wants to do everything just perfect.
Even Tyrann (Mathieu) told him, ‘Just play.’ You can’t play perfect all the time. But you do love that about him.
Maximum effort won’t be criticized, but that’s about as close as one can get to being scolded for wanting to be a perfect player. Bucannon’s will to be perfect is going to make him a fan favorite before long—players like that win the hearts of Cardinals fans.
Anyone remember Adrian Wilson? He and Bucannon are cut from the same cloth.
Slowing Down Kareem Martin
Where will third-round pick Kareem Martin play this season? According to him, he will be doing a bit of everything, again via Root: “I’ll be rushing a little bit from the outside, but I think I’ll mainly be playing defensive end.”
Whether he will play 3-tech or 5-tech defensive end remains to be seen, but expect to see him play both early on. While at North Carolina, Martin played all over the front seven, frequently rushing from the A- and B-gaps as both a linebacker and a defensive tackle as well as the C-gaps from his defensive end position in the Tar Heels’ 4-3 defense.
But Arians told Root that the coaching staff has to pull in the reins a bit on Martin: "We have to slow him down. I’d rather say ‘Whoa’ than ‘Sic ‘em,’ but he’s around the quarterback way too much. He’s doing a heck of a job. He’s more powerful than I thought he’d be."
It’s obviously too early to tell, but as of now, it appears Keim did a fantastic job at the draft; three of his first four picks are killing it at OTAs.
No Work for Troy Niklas
Tight end Troy Niklas, the team’s second-round pick, has yet to do any work at OTAs as he recovers from sports hernia surgery, according to Urban.
That might hurt his role in the offense when camp begins in July, but it won’t hurt it for long. Niklas is too good not to make an early impact.
Former NFL great Tim Brown told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Bickley and Marotta (h/t Jules Tompkins of ArizonaSports.com) what he thinks of Niklas’ blocking ability, which should excite Andre Ellington fans:
I think Troy [Niklas] is a very instinctive football player. He’s a very natural football player (and) those guys are great because they’ll make plays for you that you don’t necessarily see until you watch the film—you know, being able to chip off one guy and go get another tackler. He’ll do a lot of that kind of stuff.
Niklas is an underrated pass-catcher, though. He is good enough in the run game for the team not to need a sixth lineman on the field in running situations, but his real value will be on short-yardage and goal-line passing situations. He’s huge, at 6’7” and 270 pounds, and he runs solid routes for how big he is.
Hopefully, he can get on the field soon, because the longer he’s out, the longer it will take him to get acclimated to Arians’ offense.
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