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Rodney Hudson At Center Of Offensive Communication

Cardinals hope upgrade middle of line helps in multiple areas

Center Rodney Hudson (61) runs a drill against fellow center Michal Menet during a recent practice.
Center Rodney Hudson (61) runs a drill against fellow center Michal Menet during a recent practice.

Rodney Hudson isn't the kind of player who will fill a notebook during a press conference, so it's ironic that "communication" is the word the new Cardinals center uses most.

Yet it's appropriate. The center's job is to get the information where it needs to be so the offense can function as a whole. Hudson knows when the talking really matters.

"You can tell his comfort zone is around us," tackle D.J. Humphries said. "When he gets around us, he doesn't hold his tongue at all. He's very all about communicating everything he has to get out and making sure we understand what we need.

"And he's funny. Don't let his short-answer stuff fool you. Rodney is hilarious, actually. I love that dude. I'm glad we got him here."

The position has been one at which the Cardinals have long sought help. The two best centers over the last 15 years were undrafted – Lyle Sendlein and A.Q. Shipley. The players they have tried to find in the draft – dating back to Alex Stepanovich in the Denny Green era, to Evan Boehm to Mason Cole and Lamont Gaillard – never worked out.

The position again was under the spotlight after 2020.

"You always evaluate yourself at the end of the season and see where you are at, and the center position was something that needed to be improved upon," offensive line coach Sean Kugler said. "When (Rodney) became available, it was a no-brainer."

What the Cardinals might've done at the position had Hudson not been available is an interesting guess. But it's moot. As soon as the reports surfaced that the Raiders were likely going to release Hudson in the spring, GM Steve Keim immediately called Las Vegas and GM Mike Mayock to work out a trade.

"Steve did a good job behind the scenes to make things happen," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We did not expect him to become available and when he was, we were thrilled. With his experience, with a young quarterback, to have a veteran center to have played the games he's played, and at the level he played at, we thought it was a home run for us."

Hudson didn't get a chance to reach the open market that perhaps he first expected. The fact the Raiders wanted to move on from one of the best at his position in the league was a shock, although now "that's not even occupying real estate in my mind," Hudson said.

Cole was traded. Gaillard released. Max Garcia is the backup to Hudson, and Kugler has the upgrade he sought.

"He's a football junkie, he's always asking millions of questions, he always wants to watch extra film he always wants to have the right answer on everything," Kugler said. "He fits right in in the room. He's an ultra-competitor. To have a guy that caliber at the center position, with Kyler behind him, I think it's really going to be a next step for our team."

It starts with that communication, of course. How does Hudson see himself making an impact on the offense everyone expects? "Constant communication daily," he said. How did he deal with missing some early training camp while in Covid protocol? "I was able to communicate, it just wasn't in person." What is the best way to build a relationship with Kyler Murray? "The more we can be around each other and communicate, it'll just keep growing."

Hudson, 32, has only missed one game in the past five seasons. He's only allowed three sacks total the past six seasons. He is also fundamentally sound, committing just one penalty last season – an area the Cardinals desperately want to improve upon as a unit. Cole, the 2020 starter, had five penalties by himself.

"We struggled in that area last year and he's a leader in that room," Kingsbury said. "For a guy that sets the example with the way he plays, the way he studies the game and the way he doesn't get penalties, it's a big deal."

The Cardinals are hoping Hudson can be the calming anchor – for the line, for Murray, for the offense – but the center isn't making assumptions. His experience doesn't mean film study is unimportant, he said. After that, well, you can guess how Hudson wants it to go.

"You have to talk about it, first with the coaches and then with the players," He said. "Communicate with each other, and execute it from there."

Images from the annual Red-White Practice at Cardinals Training Camp Powered By Cox.

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