Back in the preseason, after Greg Dortch had a good practice against the Vikings while the Cardinals were in Minnesota, the wide receiver was talking about getting his opportunity -- which had been sporadic -- and keeping his confidence.
"If you are not your biggest cheerleader, I mean, you can't expect people to be happy for you," he said. "That (stuff) has to come from within."
Dortch has long had belief in himself. He had to. He came into the league in 2019 and through 2021 spent time with five teams, getting cut six times. He had three catches. But the whippet-quick Dortch found his way on to the 2022 Cardinals roster, and thanks to suspensions and injuries, got more chances to play wideout. He had 52 catches for 467 yards and two touchdowns -- but at 5-foot-7, found himself down the depth chart again with a coaching staff that prefers bigger receivers.
Then Hollywood Brown got hurt a month ago. And Dortch took off. In Chicago, he had an electrifying 38-yard zig-zagging TD catch. Against the Eagles, he led the team with seven catches for 82 yards, including the 36-yard catch-and-run to set up the game-winning TD, and drawing a key 29-yard pass interference flag on the Cardinals' penultimate TD drive.
"I've been really pleased with the way he jumped in and didn't miss a beat," offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said. "I think you've seen that over the last couple of weeks. He's always ready when his number is called, whether he's in the starting lineup on Wednesday (at practice) or he happens to be in it midway through the game on Sunday.
"You can see what he can do with the ball in his hands, not only after catching it but as a returner. The last couple of weeks he's certainly been explosive for our offense."
Nearly lost in his receiving contributions has been his good work in the return game. He is averaging 9.7 yards a punt return, which is a career high and 3.1 yards better than last year. And his 21.4 yards per kickoff return is fifth in the league among players who have returned at least 16 kickoffs.
It would be hard to believe Dortch hasn't found himself an important spot on the roster going forward. (His contract is up but Dortch will be an exclusive rights free agent, meaning the Cardinals will keep him if they choose.)
But it isn't hard to believe in Dortch -- which he has done for himself all along.