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Jovial D.J. Humphries Facing Serious Season

Cardinals tackle has talent to be a standout, but must stay healthy

T D.J. Humphries is preparing for a critical season in 2019.
T D.J. Humphries is preparing for a critical season in 2019.

D.J. Humphries was downright thrilled when, on the third day of training camp, a player with major NFL cachet named him the funniest player on the Cardinals.

Terrell Suggs expressed it loudly -- and vulgarly -- after practice, shouting across the locker room that Humphries was "funny as (expletive)," as the Cardinals' left tackle swooned.

No matter how old he gets, Humphries is always going to be a source of lightheartedness and humor, but he's also heading into a year that has serious importance for his future.

The Cardinals' former first-round pick is playing on his fifth-year option in 2019 and is slated for free agency after the season. He has shown flashes of dominance during his NFL career but has missed 21 of 48 games over the past three seasons.

Humphries, who has taken preventative measures to be as durable as possible this season, believes he is an upper echelon left tackle when healthy.

"I'm going to continue to go out here and make sure I'm doing what I do at a high level, and if somebody falls on me in the process, it is what it is," Humphries said. "But you know what I can say? That film that's out there, Hump is dogging people."

Humphries is only 25 years old, and young starting tackles get paid handsomely on the open market. A dominant season could mean tens of millions of dollars in guaranteed money. Another injury-filled one could put him in the prove-it category.

"I've told D.J. since he got here, he's one of the most talented guys I've ever seen," center A.Q. Shipley said. "He's just got to put a full season together. I think he knows that. If he does that, he's going to be a very wealthy man, and he's going to be here for awhile."

Humphries said he's not thinking about the financial ramifications.

"I know if I go out here and get hit by a bus, I know my family's going to be good for the rest of their life," Humphries said. "So that type of thinking – we all know about the money, but the first thing you have to handle is the play."

Humphries landed on injured reserve last season with a knee injury but is back to full health. Coach Kliff Kingsbury senses a motivated player on his offensive line, one who attacked rehab with ferocity and has been full-go in training camp.

"He knows what this year could mean for him, and for us, and he's approached it that way," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

While Humphries is not generally in the conversation among the better players at his position, the upside is evident, and a strong season could change that thinking.

"I think I'm right in there," Humphries said. "Especially when we're talking about run-blocking, I feel like I'm a top-10 run-blocking tackle in the league. I don't feel like that's something to argue about. That's a fact. As long as I can continue to bring my pass protection on like I've been doing – I feel like I'm trending in the right direction to be those guys in the future that we're looking at, like we look at Trent (Williams) and Tyron (Smith)."

The Cardinals spent the No. 1 overall pick on quarterback Kyler Murray, and there is concern about the offensive line's ability to protect him after the struggles of 2018. Humphries is the anchor on the left side, and a full campaign from him would be a welcome boost.

"There have been flashes of him if you put on some film," Shipley said. "I'm just going to throw (out) San Francisco two years ago. It was one of the best run game tapes I've ever watched for a tackle. And I told him that. But it's got to be every day, and I think he understands that. He's ready to roll."

Images from Sunday's practice at State Farm Stadium

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