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KeeSean Johnson Wants Back On The Field

Notes: Defense not talent-deficient; no fans in San Fran; Drake, Williams sit

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver KeeSean Johnson during a training camp practice in 2020.
WR KeeSean Johnson looks to get back on the radar in 2020.

The Cardinals took three receivers in last year's draft, and the final one – sixth-rounder KeeSean Johnson -- finished with the most catches and targets by a considerable margin.

In aggregate, that is something to build on, but the arrow trended in the wrong direction as his rookie year went along.

Johnson's most prolific game was his NFL debut, catching five passes for 46 yards against the Lions, but then his production and playing time consistently dropped. Johnson was inactive for the final five games of the season, which has served as motivation for him this offseason.

"More fuel to the fire," Johnson said. "Going from playing in a football game to having to sit and watch, it only makes you want to get out there that much more."

Cardinals wide receivers coach David Raih said Johnson is a more confident player in his second year.

"KeeSean has matured, and I can tell you this, he's got a ton of pride," Raih said. "He worked on it all offseason. To be good, he's got to continue it. Personally, I love him. He's so fun to coach because he cares so much. He's got the skills to have a career. He's learning how to do it every day."

The Cardinals have a top-notch receiving trio in DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald, and barring injury, snaps will be hard to come by for the reserves.

One salvation is coach Kliff Kingsbury's willingness to put four receivers on the field together if it's the optimal look, which leaves the door open for players like Johnson and Andy Isabella.

"Coach Kliff has always been willing to figure things out, to get more people the ball and spread the ball around," Johnson said.

Johnson, Isabella and Hakeem Butler are all trying to break out in their second seasons, and Raih has been encouraged by their progress.

"All three of them are more mature and diligent about what they're doing," Raih said. "That's pretty typical coming into the league. It's very hard to be a first-year receiver, a rookie receiver, and come in and get used to the speed of the game and particularly the press coverage."

DEPTH JOINS STAR POWER ON DEFENSE

The Cardinals will have the same Pro Bowl trio leading the way on defense this season: outside linebacker Chandler Jones, cornerback Patrick Peterson and newly-extended safety Budda Baker.

Despite the star power, the unit struggled a year ago, mainly because there were some glaring weaknesses elsewhere.

Defensive tackle Corey Peters said the new additions this offseason – which included defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and linebackers Isaiah Simmons, Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell – have helped shore up those areas, and a turnaround could be coming.

"The defense won't be talent-deficient this year," Peters said. "We've got the pieces we need to be successful. Obviously it's still early and we have to get everybody to the season healthy and get everybody clicking on all cylinders working together. That's the most important thing."

NO FANS AT THE SEASON OPENER

The 49ers announced that there won't be any fans in the stands in the season opener against the Cardinals. Kingsbury has said that the NFL will likely allow artificial crowd noise to be pumped into the games.

Some teams have ruled out fans for the entire season, while the Dolphins plan to have a limited capacity at their opener. The Cardinals have not yet announced crowd plans for the season.

DRAKE, WILLIAMS MISS PRACTICE

Running back Kenyan Drake and tight end Maxx Williams weren't present during the portion of practice open to the media.

Others who didn't practice: left tackle D.J. Humphries, tight end Dan Arnold, linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and outside linebacker Kylie Fitts.

Images from Monday's practice at State Farm Stadium, presented by Hyundai.

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