Kliff Kingsbury never saw Robert Nkemdiche practice, so it is unlikely the Cardinals’ coach was counting on the former first-round pick to be a key piece of the defensive line in 2019.
It definitely won’t happen now, as Nkemdiche was released Saturday evening, bringing to an end an underwhelming three-plus years in Arizona. Kingsbury explained on Sunday why the team cut the talented but inconsistent defensive tackle.
"It's a performance-based business, and we decided as an organization it was best for us,” Kingsbury said. “We wish him well and hope he gets a fresh start somewhere else."
The departure of Nkemdiche eats into the depth of the defensive line behind starting ends Darius Philon and Rodney Gunter. Rookie third-round pick Zach Allen is expected to grab some of that playing time after impressing the coaching staff the past few months.
“We had him evaluated very high in the draft,” Kingsbury said. “Character through the roof, high motor, tough, smart, does everything you want. Incredibly productive in college, and you’re starting to see that now. He’s picked things up quick, and he’s definitely going to have a role.”
Nkemdiche tied for the second-most sacks on the team a year ago with four-and-a-half. Philon, a free agent signing from the Chargers, could pick up the slack when it comes to interior pressure.
“One of the best get-offs I’ve seen, and once he gets comfortable in our system, he’s just going to get better and better,” said Kingsbury, who is happy with the overall depth at defensive end.
NO COMPETITION FOR GONZALEZ
The Cardinals didn’t bring a second kicker into training camp, as Zane Gonzalez is poised to be the guy heading into 2019. The Arizona State product joined the team in the middle of last season and went 7-of-9 on field goals.
“We are very high on Zane,” Kingsbury said. “We felt like he had a tremendous spring and that was a big evaluation period for us to watch him. He’s kicking with a lot of confidence, and that’s what we want. He’s a tremendous talent, and when he’s confident, he’s really, really good.”
Outside linebacker Matt Longacre, who the Cardinals signed on Wednesday, has been released. He was added as depth behind Terrell Suggs and Chandler Jones but the Cardinals will now need to lean on other reserve options.
The group got a boost on Saturday when veteran Brooks Reed (hip) was activated off the physically unable to perform list.
REST DAY FOR FITZGERALD, PETERSON, SUGGS
Sunday’s practice was missing some star power, as wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, cornerback Patrick Peterson and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs were given rest days. Outside linebacker Chandler Jones, right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive tackle Corey Peters returned to practice after taking Saturday off.
Images from the third practice of camp