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Andy Isabella Seeks Supporting Role With Cardinals

Wide receiver trying to make jump in Kingsbury offense in second season

WR Andy Isabella runs after a catch during training camp 2020

Few players engender the kind of outward support from teammates like Andy Isabella.

Whether it's tackle D.J. Humphries playfully calling him "Randy" or future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald playing his hype man, the second-year wide receiver has the backing of his fellow players.

"I love Andy personally," quarterback Kyler Murray said. "When he's on the field he's just dangerous with his speed and his ability to playmake."

But there was one player Isabella acknowledged from whom he needed more support. Himself.

"It was myself, beating myself up," Isabella said after practice Sunday. "This year, I'll take the coaching but I'm not going to let it get in my head. I think maybe I was thinking too much and now, it's just go out and play. I know I can play at this level."

Isabella, the 2019 second-round pick as the selection acquired in the Josh Rosen trade, struggled as a rookie. He finished with only nine catches for 189 yards and one spectacular 88-yard catch-and-run touchdown. He all but disappeared in the offense down the stretch, and now the Cardinals have added DeAndre Hopkins to the duo of Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk.

Yet, if Isabella can translate what he's flashed in training camp on to the field, there is little question the 5-foot-9 UMass product could be a factor.

"He works really hard at it and wants to be great," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "It's tough when you're playing behind one of the best if not the best receivers of all time. That's just a tough spot to be in. I thought he handled it with grace and with poise.

"(Coaches) were hard on him last year and put him through it, trying to prepare him mentally and physically for kind of the rigors of what he'd face and to his credit he responded. Couldn't be more pleased with how he's come back."

Kingsbury admitted he has to do a better job finding ways to expand Isabella's role and getting him on the field. Playing behind Fitzgerald in the slot makes things less clear (and an interesting scene when the 6-3 Fitzgerald taps out to the 5-9 Isabella between reps.)

That a wideout from UMass might have a more steeper learning curve wasn't unexpected. Receivers coach David Raih expected such hurdles – "He's gone through the pain of learning to get off the press," Raih used as an example – and now Isabella is showing some of the reasons Kingsbury was so excited to draft him.

"Andy is much more mature," Raih said. "He wasn't a very instinctual guy last year, he was much more mechanical. So he's much more fluid and because of it, you're seeing the ball go to him more often."

Isabella grew out his hair from the buzzcut he sported as a rookie. He changed numbers early in camp, from 89 to 17 (He said he just "got tired" of his old number). But he also seems to have practiced with more of an edge.

"I want to win a job, I want to get on the field more, so definitely have a little bigger of a chip on my shoulder this year," Isabella said.

Murray said he was excited to see what Isabella might be able to bring to the offense. Kingsbury has always looked for a guy like Isabella, who not only has flashed his speed in camp but also his quickness inside, making him for a hellacious cover if locked up with a safety or linebacker.

His teammates saw that potential, which is why they love to root for him. Isabella, who said he didn't really do anything in the offseason except work to make sure he was better than what he showed as a rookie, had a simple reason to be motivated.

 "It was, 'Well, I've got to compete,' " Isabella said. "This could be it, you never know."

Images from Friday's practice at State Farm Stadium, presented by Hyundai.

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