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Cardinals, Mike McCoy, Still Building Offensive Identity

Philosophy will cater to strength of the personnel

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy at Monday's training camp practice.
Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy at Monday's training camp practice.

Mike McCoy believes it is "critical" the Cardinals' offense caters to its personnel.

How will that look on game days? That's still a work-in-progress.

McCoy, the team's new offensive coordinator, said the offensive philosophy will come into sharper focus as the season draws near, but for now, the evaluation is still in the early stages.

"We're creating that identity right now, in training camp and then the preseason," McCoy said. "We've only had two practices in pads. We're going to find out."

The Cardinals have a pair of cornerstones in running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. After that, there is plenty of mystery among the skill players. The No. 2 wide receiver spot is up for grabs, and specific plays within the offense are still being tested.

It's not an easy task for McCoy, who has a whole new cast of players and a quarterback – Sam Bradford – he hasn't worked with before. But it's McCoy's flexibility on offensive play-calling which enticed Wilks when originally making the hire.

"There are guys that have schemes and guys that have systems," Wilks said. "I believe in systems that adapts to the personnel you have. 'OK, we're going to do it this way.' Well, that might not fit who you have. Mike has done a great job of that, and he's shown that over the years with the different quarterbacks."

While there is no consensus, some of McCoy's preferences are becoming apparent in training camp. Johnson's ability as a receiver gives McCoy an attractive chess piece to move around the formation.

"David's a special back," McCoy said. "There are only a couple players I've coached at this position that are like this."

The passing game is expected to feature more short and intermediate throws than Bruce Arians' vertical attack. Speedster J.J. Nelson was a key element going deep the past few years but he likes the idea of getting the ball quickly and doing damage after the catch.

"It's a big difference (between the offensive systems)," Nelson said. "I feel like those shorter routes sometimes kind of help, especially for guys like me with speed. You catch a team in a zone, you get in that void and you make a couple people miss, then you can take it the distance. That's something I love. I'm looking forward to that."

While there is no timeline on locking down an exact approach, McCoy has been pleased with the offensive progress to this point.

"We've got a long ways to go still – that's what training camp is for – but we're off to a good start," McCoy said.

CARDINALS CONTINUE SEARCHING FOR DEPTH

Free agent linebacker Gerald Hodges was reportedly brought in for a workout on Tuesday. The Cardinals have a strong core of projected starters in Deone Bucannon, Josh Bynes and Haason Reddick, but there isn't much experience behind them.

Hodges won't be the last player given a look during training camp as the Cardinals aim to strengthen the roster.

"We're going to constantly continue to try to bring guys in and create a short list," Wilks said. "If things happen, we'll be ready to move on it."

BRADFORD, FITZGERALD GET A DAY OFF

The Cardinals' practiced outside in the heat on Tuesday morning, and while Bradford and Fitzgerald were present, they watched from the sideline as Wilks gave them a veteran day off. The team does not practice on Wednesday and will be back in pads on Thursday.

Images from the first padded practice of training camp on Monday

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