Linebacker Markus Golden closes in on quarterback Carson Palmer during a recent training camp practice.
Training camp was beginning to stretch into the days of monotony and irritation when one practice was livened up with trash talk – audible on the sideline – between linebacker Markus Golden and right tackle D.J. Humphries.
It made Humphries recall his days at the University of Florida, battling future top five NFL pick Dante Fowler.
"Markus has had a big help in my progression, even last year when I was on the scout team," Humphries said. "That guy, his hair is on fire all the time. I've got to be going all the time, and if I don't, I'm going to have to
hear him jawing all day."
That's Golden's game. Whether it's described through flame or Golden's "motor," there is little question why the Cardinals liked Golden enough to make him a second-round pick. After a season of learning behind veteran Dwight Freeney, Golden would like that to translate into more than potential.
Freeney is no longer around, but Golden wants to team with Chandler Jones to show the Cards will be just fine rushing the passer.
"I respect him and I respect myself too much to say I'll be the next Dwight Freeney," Golden said. "There's only one Markus Golden and I feel I can bring it too. It was great having Dwight, but I'm ready to rush now, I'm ready to be one of the go-to guys. I know I can be that guy."
Golden had four sacks as a rookie. Often criticized by coach Bruce Arians early in the season for overrunning plays in his constant quest to get to the quarterback, Golden has worked hard on that part of his game.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said Golden is so much better working within and understanding the scheme. That alone will make him better. Work ethic was never the problem, though – it was a 6-foot-2, 260-pound frame
with shorter arms that made people hesitate about his NFL future.
The Cardinals feel Golden has plenty of attributes to compensate.
"Whatever he isn't, he plays as hard as anybody I've ever been around," Bettcher said. "When I was in Indy, I was fortunate enough to work with Robert Mathis. He has the same kind of motor Robert plays with. Relentless, hard effort, tough. You can't have enough guys like Markus Golden."
One of the opening scenes of the Amazon/NFL Films series "All or Nothing" showed the Cardinals unable to take running back Ameer Abdullah in the 2015 second round, leaving them to take Golden. Golden shrugs off the knowledge – "They needed a running back more, that's the NFL," he said – but it is yet another reason why Golden is never quite satisfied with how he is performing. In fact, he admits he'll never feel like he's done enough.
Golden wants to win a Super Bowl. But he's fueled just as much with knowing he has younger cousins, young nieces, younger brothers watching him every game waiting for him to make something happen.
"Where I come from you don't always have a chance to make it big with your dreams," Golden said. "So that's what I do every day – take advantage of living my dream."
Having Jones on the field should open up opportunities for Golden. But as Humphries knows, Golden isn't counting on Jones, or lamenting Freeney's departure, or wondering what if when it comes to his measurables. He just wants to pressure the quarterback.
"Turn on his film, you see what you need to see out of a pass rusher," Humphries said.
ZIMMERMAN BROUGHT BACK
There was one significant injury that came out of Friday's game, with safety Durell Eskridge hurting his arm enough that he was waived injured Monday. To replace him on the roster, the Cardinals re-signed safety Tyrequek Zimmerman. Zimmerman had been recently released when the Cardinals signed cornerback Alan Ball.