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The Safeties In Numbers: Jalen Thompson Waits For Budda Baker

Along with Simmons, Cardinals hopeful in big production from position

Safety Jalen Thompson motions to his teammates during Thursday's OTA.
Safety Jalen Thompson motions to his teammates during Thursday's OTA.

Jalen Thompson smiled, because he knew after mentioned that Budda Baker had been among the teammates he had worked out with away from the team facility that a Baker question was coming.

"You know, it's been what it is," Thompson said about his fellow Cardinals safety. "Nothing too much. Budda is still going to be here. He is still that leader. We watched film a little bit together. We've been working hard together. That's it."

The strongest position the Cardinals arguably have is safety. Budda Baker is a five-time Pro Bowler, Thompson has been underrated in his talent, and Isaiah Simmons, while still listed as a linebacker, continues to work more on the back end than elsewhere.

That doesn't mean there aren't questions.

Baker's situation has more clarity after he did an interview with Ch. 12's Cam Cox, saying that he would show up with a smile "when it's time to be there," ostensibly at the mandatory minicamp in a couple of weeks.

Weighing 194 pounds – his heaviest, while maintaining speed – Baker told Cox he was angry about missing the end of the season after cracking his shoulder.

"That pissed me off in a sense," Baker said. "I want to never have a situation like that happen again. … I love being durable. I hate missing games. I hate not being on the football field."

Gannon has been in contact with Baker and would only say "I like where he is at right now. It'll be good to get '3' back."

The funny part is that Thompson himself admittedly hasn't been around for a chunk of the voluntary workouts, training too on his own and trying hard to learn all the new faces. He and Baker do give Gannon – whose background is as a defensive backs coach – a solid secondary foundation.

Gannon said he didn't know a lot about Thompson before he arrived. But "I know he's a football player."

"He's extremely intelligent," Gannon added. "He's got the skillset you are looking for at the backend from the safety position. He's a reliable player, which for me, playing safety, that's the first thing you have to be. He's on the details."

With Baker out, one of the pieces Thompson is working with at OTAs has been Simmons. The 2020 first-round pick remains one of the biggest topics for the new staff, playing on the last year of his deal and seeking consistency that has yet to be found.

The plan is still for Simmons to work in multiple spots, Gannon said. What that means, and how many, is undetermined. The staff thus far wants Simmons to get comfortable in a smaller range of responsibilities first, although Gannon said Simmons isn't focused on his contract or what an important year this might be.

"He's concerned about improving his game in the roles we give him," Gannon said.

It's only the beginning of June, of course. The first game that counts, in Washington on Sept. 10, is far away. And even with Simmons trying to find a positional home, and Baker staying at home, the plan is for the two to team with Thompson to show why it should be a position of strength.

"I feel we could be real good," Thompson said. "I felt we showed glimpses of it last year. This year should be real good for us, especially with this new scheme."

Images of the Arizona Cardinals participating in Week 2 of voluntary OTA workouts at the Dignity Health Training Facility

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