After Victor Dimukeje watched his play on video after his preseason debut, the rookie outside linebacker saw, not surprisingly, both individual success and disappointing errors.
"One thing I learned before I got to the NFL is don't try to make the same mistake twice," the sixth-round selection said. "I pride myself on doing the little things right, being critical of every little thing."
The second preseason game Friday night against the Chiefs – a nationally televised ESPN matchup at State Farm Stadium – gives Dimukeje that chance to rectify those issues. It doesn't hurt that the Cardinals have so many outside linebackers sidelined right now.
Chandler Jones won't play, and Markus Golden likely won't. Dennis Gardeck remains on the PUP list. Devon Kennard and Kylie Fitts are the expected starters, guys who were part of the rotation a year ago, but Dimukeje hopes to make some depth chart inroads.
The Cardinals have high hopes for their pass rush this season, which starts with Jones. They added J.J. Watt, who hopes to team with Jordan Phillips in the middle of the defensive line to provide pressure there. Watt also remains on the PUP list, and Phillips has missed most of camp with an undisclosed injury and Thursday also was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
After finishing tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks last season as a team – without the injured Jones – the belief is that they are improved.
"We hope so," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "That's a group that's had success rushing the passer in their career. Hopefully that group will be out there sooner than later and we'll see where it goes from there."
Golden has talked since arriving back in trade – post-Jones injury – about the chance to reunite with Jones. 'We wreaked havoc," Golden said, noting that with the addition of Watt, "any quarterback back there, we coming for you."
Dimukeje isn't likely to be a part of the pass rush. Not yet. His size and game are a near-carbon copy of Golden, and it makes sense that Golden has been a mentor, teaching the Duke product what it might take to eventually be someone who gets a chunk of defensive snaps.
"Once I showed up he kind of held my hand," Dimukeje said. "He's led me since I've been here."
This is the time to get some defensive reps. It's possible Dimukeje might even get some time to rush Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who could play as much as a half Friday night.
But it's special teams where Dimukeje must focus most right now. He's on all four phases of the transition game, and with guys like Jones, Golden, Kennard and Gardeck, that's where the roster push must be.
"We have a stacked room," Dimukeje said. "Special teams, as a young player, sixth-round, I have to make a living there."
The best photos from the Cardinals' 2021 Training Camp, Powered By Cox.