Much like a boxer feels out his opponent in a prizefight for the first couple of rounds and assesses where he can be aggressive and attack later in the fight, the same can be said for NFL rookies. Assessing their opponent or assignment week to week is only part of the battle. There’s also learning the playbook, adapting to the system and assessing their role on the team. Former Ole Miss star defensive end Robert Nkemdiche now knows this. Nkemdiche, acknowledges his feeling out period as a rookie is over and it’s time to make his mark on the NFL.
Unfortunately, Nkemdiche’s feeling out period only lasted five games after a high-ankle sprain suffered in training camp slowed him down. The injury turned out to be a big blow, as some expected a big impact from the big man from Ole Miss. Others questioned his motor and whether or not off the field issues would come back to haunt him. Thus, the reason Nkemdiche, a consensus top 5 talent, ended up falling all the way to 29th in the draft.
In the five games he appeared in, Nkemdiche’s impact (1 assisted tackle, 1 pass deflection) was almost non-existent. However, that needs to change dramatically this upcoming season, especially with Calais Campbell now being a Jacksonville Jaguar.
Replacing Campbell’s eight sacks will be very important as Arizona recovers from a subpar 7-8-1 record in 2016.
— Craig Grialou (@CraigAZSports) July 24, 2017
— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) July 27, 2017
Above is Nkemdiche in drills at Cards training camp. So far, the feedback from the Cardinals’ coaching staff is positive. The word ‘disruptive’ comes up quite often, which isn’t surprising with Nkemdiche’s size and athleticism. The 6′ 4″ 295 lb defensive end is definitely more than a handful. Especially, when he’s focused. Which, hasn’t always been the case, but seems to be now.
As reported in an Arizonasports.com story, Nkemdiche says;
“It’s a lot better when you can play with understanding what you have to do and how the defense actually works because football is a game of inches, so one inch can make you behind the play,” he said Thursday. “You want to make sure you’re on top of what you want to do technique-wise. There’s never a place of complacency for technique. There’s always ways to get better.”
If Nkemdiche can produce this season the way many feel he can, Arizona could improve dramatically. They seem to be set on the back seven with veterans like Auburn’s Karlos Dansby and Chandler Jones at linebacker, and also a good secondary headed by LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Matheiu. A lot of SEC flavor to say the least.
While, Saturdays aren’t looking too good for the forseeable future for Ole Miss fans, Robert Nkemdiche could give them reason to scream ‘Hotty Toddy’ on Sundays. Especially, if he continues saying the right things and then back them up on and off the field.
“I want to be the best me. I know what the best me can look, so that’s what my vision is looking like and every day when step on the field, when I’m off the field I want to work towards that.”
If this is the Robert Nkemdiche we can look forward to this season. Look out! Arizona fans will like the mark he makes. Opposing offensive lines and QB’s……. not so much.