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Cardinals' Rookies Ready At Thanksgiving

Bruce Arians ready to roll with youngsters at this point in season


Cardinals rookie tight end Ricky-Seals Jones caught two touchdowns against Houston.

Most of America appreciates Thanksgiving because it is a time to sit back, relax and enjoy a day of leisure.

The Cardinals rookies are grateful for this day because it means coach Bruce Arians is ready to put them to work.

Even when first-year players show potential early in the season, Arians is wary of putting too much on their plate because of the mental rigors of the NFL. One false move can prove disastrous, and young players tend to make more mistakes than veterans.

But Arians has long pinpointed Thanksgiving as the point in which he trusts his rookies are finally up to speed.

"They've had a full college season," Arians said. "Four preseason games and they've got 11, 12 games under their belt. They shouldn't be rookies anymore."

As the Cardinals prepare for the Jaguars on Sunday, more rookies are getting their shot. First-rounder Haason Reddick was the lone draft pick to see consistent playing time from the outset, based on a need at linebacker and his immense physical gifts.

Last week, he was joined by a couple more. Second-round pick Budda Baker excelled at safety in place of Tyvon Branch, while tight end Ricky-Seals Jones surprised everyone with a standout game.

Baker became the first rookie since Dolphins linebacker Derrick Rodgers in 1997 to amass 10-plus tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles in a game. He also had a fumble recovery and pinned a punt at the 1-yard-line.

Despite all the success in his debut, Baker understood the wait. He knows the margin for error in the NFL is razor thin, and he may not have been ready until recently.

"Quarterbacks are so good, you have to be where you need to be at the exact time or it's going to be a catch," Baker said. "And running backs, you've got to be in that hole, or they're going to bounce it into that hole."

Seals-Jones went undrafted and seemed like a longshot to make an impact at any point this year as he converted from a wide receiver in college. But he had a huge day against the Texans, catching the first two touchdown passes of his career.

"He played a heck of a game for, really, his first time being out there – two touchdowns and big time catches," quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "And the beautiful part about it is he can still get better. He's just a tremendous athlete, and he works his tail off."

Third-round pick Chad Williams has been inactive for most of the season but will get a chance of his own against Jacksonville. The Cardinals have been plagued by inconsistency at wide receiver beyond Larry Fitzgerald over the past few weeks, opening the door for Williams' opportunity.

He didn't escape Arians' wrath in the preseason -- getting criticized for his conditioning -- but Williams has been praised by his coach lately.  Williams is in lockstep with Arians' philosophy on rookie timelines.

"B.A. is a hell of a coach, probably the best in the league at what he does," Williams said. "He's been doing this for a long, long time, and I agree with him. I feel like right now, around Thanksgiving, is one of the best times for me. I feel like I'm more comfortable than I've ever been."


Wide receiver John Brown (toe), defensive lineman Josh Mauro (ankle), defensive lineman Corey Peters (ankle) and running back Elijhaa Penny (knee) didn't practice for the second straight day, while wide receiver Brittan Golden (groin) was added to the injury report and didn't practice.

Those limited were defensive lineman Olsen Pierre (shoulder), safety Rudy Ford (knee), wide receiver J.J. Nelson (chest), center A.Q. Shipley (shoulder) and quarterback Drew Stanton (knee).

The Jaguars didn't practice on Thursday, but in their estimation, wide receiver Allen Hurns (ankle) would have sat out. Those who would have beem limited were guard Patrick Omameh (quadricep), tackle Jermey Parnell (knee), linebacker Donald Payne (hamstring), running back Leonard Fournette (ankle), safety Tashaun Gipson (knee), kicker Josh Lambo (hip) and wide receiver Marqise Lee (knee).

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