GLENDALE, Ariz. – Early in training camp, the Cardinals defensive line has shown more looks than your average runway model.
One nickel package on Monday included four linemen with John Abraham lined up on the right side standing up, Calais Campbell inside of him, Frostee Rucker to his left and Matt Shaughnessy as left end. At other times, the Cards are in their base set with Campbell, nose tackle Dan Williams and Darnell Dockett manning the line spots of the 3-4 alignment.
“We have so many combinations of people we can put in,” Campbell said. “With one guy you have good chemistry doing something, with another guy you have good chemistry doing something else. You kind of get a feel for each other.”
Another goal, however, is for the players to get a better feel for themselves.
“You have to press guys to find out what they can do. You have to take them out of their comfort zone, too, because they don’t know what their comfort zone is until they try something else,” coach Bruce Arians said. “The more tricks you can learn, obviously the more you can do.
“That’s how you can find guys who have special niches. (For example) a guy’s really an outside player but he a hellacious inside pass rusher, but you won’t know until you put them in there.”
The Cards may have the luxury of finding special niches for their linemen because they believe they have significantly improved their depth with the additions of Abraham (listed at linebacker), Shaughnessy and Rucker to join Dockett, Campbell, Williams, nose tackle David Carter and end Ronald Talley.
“It’s paramount to have that depth to keep guys fresh and attacking,” Arians said. “We want to be able to tap out and just put another guy in that we trust, especially in pass rush situations on a team that wants to play fast ball.”
Of course, knowing when to tap out is sometimes a work in progress.
“I had problem in Indy last year because (ends Robert) Mathis and (Dwight) Freeney tapped out at the same time,” Arians said. “I said ‘whoa, whoa, whoa! You can’t both come out. I just learned the two guys’ names behind you.”
CHANGING OF THE… TACKLE?
Four practices into his Cardinals tenure, newly signed tackle Eric Winston joined the first unit in place of Bobby Massie. It’s early in camp, so it would be unwise to assume that the move is for good. Arians will likely take a look at both players alongside the other starters, but the move will certainly serve notice to Massie that he needs to step up his game, thereby creating the competition coaches dream of.
Running back Ryan Williams opted against a second opinion on his swollen right knee after originally planning to seek one on Monday. An MRI on Sunday showed no structural damage, so Williams will get treatment and do rehab at the team’s facility.
He is still expected to miss Tuesday afternoon’s practice to give him a chunk of time to rest since the team is off Wednesday. Arians hopes he will return Thursday when the team practices at its Tempe complex while Real Madrid plays the L.A. Galaxy in a soccer match at University of Phoenix Stadium.
New to the injury list on Tuesday were tight end Kory Sperry (ankle) and cornerback Jamell Fleming (hamstring). Arians does not expect either to miss much time, but acknowledged the injuries could linger.
Arians also said that tight end Jeff King has some fluid in his knee, so the team is taking a cautious approach with one of the team’s top two players at that position.
There were no further updates on RG Daryn Colledge (nerve damage in right leg), WRs LaRon Byrd (concussion) and Robert Gill (hamstring), LB Jasper Brinkley (knee) and TE Alex Gottlieb (hamstring).
TIGHT END TANGO
With tight ends Jeff King, Kory Sperry and Alex Gottlieb all nursing injuries, the Cardinals have been short-handed at that position. Newly acquired Mickey Shuler attended Monday’s workouts but arrived so late that he didn’t take part.
He was expected to practice Tuesday afternoon.
“It always happens at one position,” Arians said, noting that the team is still looking for more help at that position. “There’s not much available at this time of year. We were fortunate that Mickey came across the wire. He was with a couple of our coaches down at Miami, and they thought he had a chance.”
Rookie D.C. Jefferson, Rob Housler and Jim Dray are getting a lot of reps, but Arians said it is difficult to evaluate the position right now with so many bodies missing.
“I was really ticked because Kory was having a heck of a camp,” Arians said. “Finding out that he could play fullback and move around and block – I hated for him to get a setback because he was really coming on.”