Cornerback Jamell Fleming makes a move during a minicamp drill.
The rookie cornerback was moving just before the snap, veteran teammates trying to point him in the right direction before the play began and yet, Jamell Fleming still drew the ire of defensive coordinator Ray Horton because he didn't blitz right away like it was planned.
A few minutes later, Fleming laid in wait, perfectly timing a Kevin Kolb pass to make an interception by darting in front of the receiver.
A good play, a bad play. The mixed bag common for any first-year player, and even Fleming – the team's third-round pick – isn't immune.
"For any new person to come out and think, 'I've got this,' that's not going to happen," Horton said. "But he is comfortable. He's got a long way to go in everything but he is definitely right on the first page. He's actually ahead of where he should be."
Fleming has looked the part since the day he showed up in Tempe. He seems to have the right mix of confidence and control, knowing he is still learning but understanding he could end up with a big role. Beyond Patrick Peterson as a guaranteed starter, there are still a lot of moving pieces at cornerback.
William Gay and Greg Toler figure to fight for the other starting job, and Fleming has a good chance of finding his way into playing time while battling others like A.J. Jefferson and Michael Adams. Fleming also could play a little safety, Horton believes.
"I want to at least play on something and contribute," Fleming said. "I feel a lot better than I thought I was going to at this point. I mean, we don't have pads on, it's not a full practice, you only take a couple of reps. I'm just trying to learn everything."
Fleming's background in the pass-happy Big 12 playing for Oklahoma helped. He understands passing stems and receiver releases. The background of the big-time college played a part in the Cards' interest. Fleming had to bring something else to the equation, however.
"What jumped off the film for me was his quickness," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "His change of direction is outstanding. He was physical off the tape. Playing inside or outside, those guys have to be physical to make it more difficult for the offenses."
The biggest question for Fleming coming out, Horton said, was his top-end speed. The rest of his attributes – smarts, toughness, versatility – was evident, Horton said.
So too is his early comfort level. Fleming has meshed well both in the secondary and on the field. His trash-talk experience has been at a minimum, although he said he's gotten a couple of compliments from receivers if he had a nice play. There wasn't anything said when Larry Fitzgerald squeezed him on a sideline deep route this week and beat Fleming on a catch.
That's going to happen. "He's been exactly what we have hoped," Horton said, and Fleming is satisfied at this point.
"The faster I learn the plays and my responsibilities," Fleming said. "the faster I can help this team."