If the old saying "diamonds are formed under pressure" has any truth to it, Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella may find himself as a jeweler in his post-football career.
There's no doubting the heat, whether it's brought by fans, media or the organization, is on Isabella entering the Cardinals' third and final preseason game on Saturday in New Orleans.
After coming to the team as a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Isabella simply hasn't lived up to the status of such a high draft selection. Of course, some of Isabella's fellow day-2 receivers in that draft (D.K. Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown) have gone on to shine in their young NFL careers, whereas Isabella has failed to produce.
Having only 48 targets through Isabella's first two years isn't exactly exciting for his case to be a prominent option in the Cardinals' offense, along with his 27% of snaps played in 2020 as Arizona's fourth receiver last year.
Adding receivers such as A.J. Green and Rondale Moore during the offseason wasn't exactly a vote of confidence, either.
Through most of training camp, the position battle for the final receiving spots has been a hot topic of discussion. Of course, guys such as DeAndre Hopkins along with Green, Moore and Christian Kirk already have their spots etched in stone.
Last season, the Cardinals kept six wide receivers after trimming their roster down to the final 53 required by the NFL. The year before, they kept seven.
Those large numbers will again be discussed and contemplated ahead of roster cuts due on Tuesday, Aug. 31.
Going on the reserve/COVID-19 list twice during camp did Isabella no favors in his bid to climb up the depth chart. In his absence, receivers such as KeeSean Johnson, Antoine Wesley and Greg Dortch indeed stepped up and have made the most of their opportunities.
All eyes are on Isabella as the team travels to battle the Saints on the road.
Earlier in the week, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged the road ahead for Isabella.
"I’d say it’s a big week. He hasn’t had any preseason action yet and that’s important to see how he responds in the game and I expect him to play a lot on Saturday,” said Kingsbury on Monday.
The conclusion of training camp saw Isabella flip the script, as the receiver had solid practices down the stretch of the week.
"He's fast, he's productive, he knows the system," Kingsbury said after practice on Thursday. "I thought he played with confidence today and had a really good day."
Isabella is expected to see a plethora of snaps and likely will see a high volume of targets from quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Chris Streveler in New Orleans, as the team would like to see him in a setting against other defenders for the only time possible before roster cuts.
Is Isabella fighting for a spot on the roster? That's been a debate in the Red Sea for a few weeks now. A solid outing against the Saints should keep Isabella in the good graces of the coaching staff, whereas another poor performance (with the emergence of another receiver) would fully open the door to any possibility.
The NFL continues to be the world's greatest reality television show, and this week's episode all depends on how Isabella performs when the pressure is on.