After watching tape of their uneven performance in the preseason opener against the Chargers, the Cardinals’ second-string offensive line got together for a little talk. They didn’t wait for anybody from the coaching staff or the front office to call them out and tell it to them straight.
They did it all on their own.
After taking a hard, critical look at themselves and following that up with a solid week of practice, the No. 2 unit found redemption with far better play across the board during the Cardinals’ 20-15 victory in New Orleans against the Saints.
“Yeah, we took it upon ourselves to bounce back. Without (line coach) Ray (Brown) or (head coach) Steve (Wilks), without anybody else, we kind of had a little coming together, a little coming to Jesus moment,” lineman Evan Boehm said. “We wanted to figure out what was wrong and what we needed to do. After watching film from last week, we were playing not to mess up and we were thinking way too much.
“I think this week we went out there and said, ‘Play free. Turn your brain off. Just go out there and play free and have fun.’ I think we did that. We didn’t go three-and-out until what, the fourth quarter, which was huge. We went three-and-out almost the whole game last week.”
Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks breaks down Sunday morning’s practice and the play of wideouts and a defensive back.
Patrick Breen, azcentral sports
Wilks said he was proud of the second-stringers for putting the onus on themselves to get better. And all of them were, from Boehm, who got his first taste at center since offseason workouts, Daniel Munyer, who switched from center to left guard, plus tackles John Wetzel and Will Holden and guard Josh Allen.
“I thought they had a bounce-back week,” Wilks said. “I stress and emphasize ownership, particularly with all what I consider to be the leaders of this team. Coaches are going to coach. They’re going to teach in the classroom and when they come out here on the field. But (the players) have to take ownership at some point in time because during the game we’re not going to be out there.
“So it was great that Evan Boehm and Wetzel, all those guys stepped up and had that meeting. You could see the difference.”
One of the more glaring improvements came on shotgun snaps, where Boehm was nearly perfect on his exchanges with quarterback Josh Rosen. In the first preseason game, Munyer skipped a handful of long snaps to the rookie and it resulted in a few broken plays. Considering he hadn’t practiced his long snaps in months, Boehm was pleased with his efforts.
“Yeah, when they don’t come up to you and say, ‘Hey, correct the snaps,’ then I think they’re all right,” he said.
Cardinals insider Bob McManaman recaps the latest injury updates and more news from practice on Sunday.
Patrick Breen, azcentral sports
Rave rookie reviews
Wilks continues to pile the praise on rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk, who in Friday night’s game had a team-high four receptions for 49 yards, including a nice 13-yard touchdown catch over the middle from fellow rookie Rosen.
It’s not as if Kirk doesn’t have a learning curve, however, Wilks cautioned.
“I think he definitely has a learning curve. All rookies do,” Wilks said. “But I said this a while back, this guy comes to work like a pro every day. You watch him in individual period, it’s full speed. Special teams, full speed. He creates that mindset of really trying to practice how he wants to play.
“He’s just getting better each and every day. It was a great confidence booster for him to have that kind of game that he had and hopefully, he can continue to build on this.”
Kirk’s touchdown from Rosen was the first for both rookies and it’s clearly not going to be the last.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to see that connection for many, many years to come,” Wilks said.
Kirk, meanwhile, said he was flattered to hear that Cardinals guard Justin Pugh compared him to New York Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Pugh made the comment to azcentral sports following Friday’s game in New Orleans.
“I mean, that’s a big-time compliment. I appreciated that,” Kirk said Sunday. “Any time you get compared like that, it’s very honoring. I haven’t proved anything yet. It’s still preseason. Once I get into the regular season and start producing, then maybe we can talk about it. But I definitely appreciate it.”
Glennon, Butler iffy
After not playing in Friday’s game because of a sore right forearm, quarterback Mike Glennon was back on the practice field Sunday throwing passes. His status for Sunday night’s game in Dallas against the Cowboys remains somewhat up in the air, however, according to Wilks.
“There’s no timetable from a standpoint whether or not he’s going to play, but he’s progressing this week,” Wilks said. “It looked like he was pretty good on some of his throws today.”
Wide receiver Brice Butler, who missed the game with a sore foot, did some light work on his own during Sunday’s practice. His availability for Sunday’s game is also unknown.
“He was out there today running around a little bit, still with the trainers, but looked pretty good from what I saw from a distance,” Wilks said. “He’s not back in the rotation with the receivers yet, so hopefully he’ll be back out there this week sometime.”
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.