Lack of On-Field Reps Affecting Rookies

Without an in-person offseason, Arizona Cardinals rookies are settling for a Virtual Period that is potentially stunting development.
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With the Cardinals beginning their third week of virtual offseason “workouts,” it’s an adjustment for everyone throughout the NFL.

For this year’s group of rookies, it’s a brave new world of trying to get acclimated, knowing there likely won’t be much, if any, becoming comfortable around their fellow first-year players, plus the veterans, until much later in the offseason.

For the returning players, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said the process has been good.

He said, “We've been installing every day, trying to break it down offensively and defensively. We'll go through it; use that hour to install and talk through position-specific things that we want to get accomplished. Obviously, we’d like to apply it to the field and you're not able to. But being in Year 2, that has been a lot smoother. Everything's familiar to these guys the second time around, and I think that's helped.”

It’s altogether different for the rookies, who didn’t have minicamps this year on the first or second weekend after the draft.

“What you feel like they're missing out on is reps,” Kingsbury said. “When the vets get back or when they are around the vets, they're obviously not going to get as many (reps). Those rookie minicamp reps are really invaluable and it's tough for them to not have those, but these guys just have to work really hard at the mental part of it and obviously study their playbooks relentlessly to be prepared for their opportunities.”

He expanded on the theme when asked if expectations for the rookies have to be managed considering the unique circumstances.

He said, “We all do. I believe as a coaching staff, when you look at the opportunities they're going to get, it's not going to be what it would have been rep-wise. Because guess what, our vets haven't played football in a year as well. Whenever we get our hands on them, it's gonna be a longer time than we had anticipated. They're going to need the work as well, so I think we have to understand things will be moving really quickly for these guys when we do get to work with them. And we probably do need to anticipate guys maybe not being as prepared as they have been in the past.”

As for the first thing he and the coaches will have to do when the rookies are on the field for the first time, Kingsbury smiled and said, “Just make sure they know where to line up. You know, that's one hesitation about the zoom meetings is everybody's gonna nod and say, ‘Yes, sir. I got it.’ And when you get out there, sometimes they don't ‘got it.’”