Cap Capi has spent the past four years trying to get his foot in the door with an NFL team. Every time the defensive end manages to get his size 14s close, he gets turned away. He’s managed to hook on with six teams only to be released eight times.
“I’m hoping this year can be a little different,” Capi said.
After his performance for the Cardinals Saturday night during the second half of their 24-17 preseason victory over the Chargers, things are definitely looking up. Capi was sensational in registering three sacks and forcing a fumble, one of four turnovers caused by the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Capi had a sneaky suspicion he would have a big night, even though he said, “I’m always ready to come out and put my best foot forward.” It was a pregame message he got on his cell phone, though, that put an extra bounce in his step.
“I got a real good motivational text from my brother before the game that really helped me get going,” Capi said. “Shout out to my big bro for sending me that text message.”
What did it say?
“Just like, ‘You come from the bottom, rise to the cream of the crop, diamond from the rough. You did it before, it’s nothing new, so go out there and do what you’ve been doing your whole life,’ ” Capi said.
Capi has always been able to impress during training camp and the preseason. He did it in 2015 upon signing with the Jaguars as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Akron only to be waived in September. He caught on with the Ravens only to be released twice by Baltimore. It was more of the same in 2016, first with the Falcons, who signed him twice and released him twice.
The Cardinals added him to their practice squad in October of that year and he spent the entire season in Arizona. But it was in training camp last year here where he really shined, making big play after big play in practices and flashing his ability to get to the quarterback in preseason games. He seemed like a lock to make the 53-man roster, but he didn’t.
“I always have a good preseason, but always end up falling short,” Capi said.
The Giants signed him to their practice squad two days later, and he was activated to the 53-man roster for four games until suffering a hamstring injury and getting placed on injured reserve, which was followed by his release. Three weeks later, the Bills signed him to their practice squad and again, he made it into four games, where he totaled five tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
He was released yet again this past April and didn’t have a job until the Cardinals came calling once more a couple weeks ago. Will this be the year Cap Capi finally sticks? His three-sack effort Saturday night, accomplished as a fourth-stringer on the depth chart, made for a terrific start.
“This game is all about production and he had a great game,” Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said Monday. “Hopefully, he can put another one back to back.”
Capi, whose real first name is Nordly, gets his next chance to impress Friday night in New Orleans when the Cardinals meet the Saints. Wilks said he wants to see the 26-year-old be just as good against the run as he’s been at harassing quarterbacks.
“We need to see him do a much better job of anchoring at the defensive end, holding the point in the run game,” Wilks said. “But he’s definitely very exciting to watch when it comes to getting after the quarterback.”
Capi knows the more he’s able to impress Wilks, the more his chances improve of making the team.
“He has high expectations for everybody,” Capi said. “He keeps (pushing) for everybody to get better each and every day. No days off. He’s pretty tough and has high expectations on everybody.
“I just control what I can control. I go out there and practice and put my best foot forward on the field. Just control what I can control and let the guys upstairs make those choices.”
If he keeps sacking quarterbacks, the 6-foot-2, 249-pound Capi would seem like a cinch to soar up the depth chart and perhaps challenge Benson Mayowa for the starting left defensive end job while Markus Golden remains sidelined following major knee surgery.
Because he isn’t as physically gifted as the Cardinals’ other main pass rusher, Chandler Jones, and he doesn’t have the speed and fury of Golden, Capi has had to evolve as an edge player. Every offseason, he looks at players around the league with similar size who have been effective pass rushers and he tries to mimic and emulate their styles and moves.
The key, he said, is anticipating the snap and launching at the very second the center moves the ball. He did it so well on Saturday night, Capi looked faster than a freight train.
“No, I’m slow. But I have deceptive speed,” he said. “I always get a good get-off. I was working get-off ever since high school (in Ocoee, Fla.). My coach was big on get-offs, so that followed me all though college to the NFL. I just try to anticipate the snap, jump the snap. You see guys like Markus Golden, Chandler, Von (Miller) – all these guys who are constantly jumping the snap.”
Capi just hopes the Cardinals don’t jump the gun and send him home early. If they do, he knows the routine. He’ll just keep himself in shape until the next opportunity knocks.
“Every team I go to, I always try to leave a good impression because you never know when that next call will come,” he said. “I always try to be respectful to all of the coaches and staff and leave a good impressions, whether I’m on the team or off the team.
“Never leave a door closed.”
Reach McManaman at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Tuesday afternoon between 3-6 on 1580-AM The Fanatic with Roc and Manuch and every Wednesday afternoon between 1-3 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.