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Budda Baker, a "Ph.D in hands," and linebacker work

Sure, Budda Baker does some work with the safeties in practice. He's a safety. Sure, he does some with the cornerbacks. He's going to work as the nickel corner quite a bit. But working with the linebackers at times, too?

"I like to think I'm versatile, so ...," Baker says, trailing off, a smile on his face.

No one is going to confuse the 5-foot-10 Baker as a prototype linebacker, and to be clear, the Cardinals aren't really viewing him that way either. But there is a reason for Baker doing drills with Josh Bynes, Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick.

"With some of the roles Budda has for us, he's playing a little bit closer to the box," defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said. "He's got to get a Ph.D in using his hands, and doing some of the things linebackers do in terms of fitting the run and doing some of the underneath coverage things, drops, stuff like that."

A doctorate in hand usage sounds ... complicated. It isn't. Baker said it was simply about a defender using his hands, rather than his shoulders, both to direct the blocker so you can get to your gap (always remember, gap integrity) and/or shedding the block altogether.

The way the Cardinals have played defense -- at least the last two preseason games -- Baker's spot becomes crucial. The Cards almost exclusively played nickel against the Cowboys and Broncos, with two linebackers and three safeties. If Baker can both be a nickel cover guy and someone who can hold up as a third linebacker in certain situations, it makes substituting much easier.

Baker will roam to a lot of different areas for Holcomb's defense, but Baker said in some ways, it's just a continuation of what he's done dating back to his college days at the University of Washington. As for the linebackers, they have no problem adding a Budda into the drills when needed.

"They invite me right in," Baker said. "Which is always good."

S Budda Baker
S Budda Baker