Rookie wide receivers have a learning curve, and that doesn't go away even if a team – say, the Cardinals – have a second-round draft pick who just might make sense to slide next to Larry Fitzgerald on the field.
Christian Kirk has never really thought about what he has yet to learn. The plan has always been to impact the offense from the very beginning of his career.
"That's for sure the goal," Kirk said Sunday following practice. "Anything less than that, I would be wrong if I didn't have those expectations. I've said from day one I wanted to be a primary contributor."
With coach Steve Wilks looking for receivers to separate themselves from each other, Kirk did that Friday against the Saints, along with second-year man Chad Williams. Wilks reiterated that Sunday, although he added the receiving competition – not only the No. 2 spot but roster spots in general – "is ongoing in that room."
Kirk made four catches for 49 yards, including an impressive 13-yard grab of a touchdown and a 21-yarder down the seam. All four catches came after lining up in the slot, and it will be interesting to see how Kirk will fit into the offense when he plays alongside Fitzgerald.
Kirk was always going to play a big role for the Cardinals this season, but it could be mostly special teams. He has already shown flashes of his gift as a punt returner.
If he is able to emerge this first season as a dynamic pass catcher for a team that desperately needs some, it would aid not only the offense but roster construction. Kirk isn't a polished product that has much to learn – "All rookies do," Wilks said – but he has left an impression on the coach beyond the Saints game.
"I said this a while back – this guy comes to work as a pro every day," Wilks said. "You watch him in individual work, (he's) full speed. Special teams, full speed. He creates that mindset of practicing as how he wants to play. It as a great confidence booster for him to have the game that he had."
Kirk said he's made "bounds and strides" as a wide receiver since arriving in May. That is helped, he added, by going against defensive backs like Patrick Peterson, Jamar Taylor and Antoine Bethea.
"It seems like from what we've seen in practice to what we've seen in these two preseason games, it seems like he's got a little bit of extra juice on game day," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "He's got some burst, he's got some speed, and it's really nice to see that."
Kirk smiled when he heard that comment, saying that he likes to think his practice work has been pretty good as well. But it's the games that will provide the blueprint of how Wilks wants to craft his receiving corps, and Kirk is making that count – while insisting he wants to block out the whole "who will be the No. 2 receiver" conversation."
"I'm worried about being the best I can be," Kirk said. "Seeing Chad and Greg (Little) and everyone go out and make plays, it's all motivation to do better."
Images of the Cardinals' second preseason game in New Orleans