GLENDALE, Ariz. – Early Monday morning, while the working folks of Arizona were making their daily commute, Arizona general manager Steve Keim took to the airwaves. He discussed who he was looking forward to watching when the Cardinals strapped on shoulder pads – when the men are separated from the boys, Keim joked – for the first time this training camp.
He’ll be focused on the rookies and free agents added during the offseason. Keim mentioned guard Jonathan Cooper and linebacker Kevin Minter as two younger players he’ll keep eyes on. But one player Keim wants to watch play with pads is rookie wide receiver John Brown.
“He has been borderline dominating at times to the point where you really have to temper your enthusiasm, because I talk about how the pads have not come on yet, so now, how does [Brown] respond when he’s got two 6-foot plus corners in his face pressing him and rerouting him at the line of scrimmage?” Keim said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “How’s he going to hold up for a smaller reliever going across the middle when [rookie safety] Deone Bucannon comes and wants to take his head off?”
Head coach Bruce Arians said Monday morning he’s anxious to see all the young players with pads on as well as a few veterans.
“When that noise level goes up, people change,” Arians said. “There’s a lot of guys that look really good in shorts and all of a sudden the noise level goes up and they disappear. Guys that don’t look very good in shorts all of a sudden they appear because they’re football players. That’s what you want to see. You want to see those guys rise up.”
There are a few guys I’ll be keeping tabs on when they’re in pads for the first time. Some overlap with Arians and Keim, some don’t.
Here are five Cardinals to watch for with pads on:
John Brown, WR: He’s fast. There’s another way to put it, but fast without pads is very different than fast with pads. He’s been impressive thus far throughout offseason workouts and the first few days of camp but will that speed continue when he’s lugging shoulder pads? We’ll see.
Jonathan Cooper, G: Coming off a broken leg, Cooper will be leaning on defenders for the first time at close to full speed since last preseason. We’ll see how far he’s come and how far – if any – he has to go. There are mental hurdles, however, that he needs to overcome so that first hit is important.
Jared Veldheer, T: He’s massive out of pads but how big and intimidating will he be when they’re on? He played just five games last season, so this will be his first contact since he’s completely healed.
John Carlson, TE: He has a long history of concussions and finished last season on injured reserve because of a concussion last December. He evaluated his health during the offseason, according to reports, and decided to continue playing.
Kevin Minter, LB: He played just one defensive snap last year and enters training camp as the presumptive starter at inside linebacker. How will his thumper reputation translate to the field?