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With Wide Receivers Banged Up, Andy Isabella Tries To Make Headway

Notes: Benjamin makes improvements; Burns activated from Covid list

Wide receiver Andy Isabella comes off the line of scrimmage during a play in Thursday's practice.
Wide receiver Andy Isabella comes off the line of scrimmage during a play in Thursday's practice.

Christian Kirk dressed out Thursday, but basically just warmed up before shutting down for the day, while DeAndre Hopkins took a vet day.

A.J. Green was sidelined with an unnamed injury, and rookie Rondale Moore left during the workout for something coach Kliff Kingsbury termed "precautionary."

The thin wide receiving corps allowed Andy Isabella to get plenty of reps, and the third-year pass catcher had his best day of camp. That's important, since finding a way on the back part of this particular depth chart is going to be "tough sledding," Kingsbury acknowledged.

Perhaps most interesting of Kingsbury's Isabella analysis was that despite similar statures, he sees 2019 second-round pick Isabella and 2021 second-round pick Moore as different players – and not redundant to each make the team.

"I don't think at that position you can have enough speed," Kingsbury said, noting that Isabella's strength is as an outside receiver and Moore is inside, along with being a "trick play guy" and return man. "I don't think they are vying for the same roster spot."

Kingsbury said he still likes Isabella's speed and is "excited" to see Isabella in the preseason. KeeSean Johnson, another 2019 draft pick, has the confidence of quarterback Kyler Murray, but is also trying to find his role.

Kingsbury said he doesn't know if the Cardinals will keep five or six receivers, and the top four spots are taken. (And we haven't even mentioned the Larry Fitzgerald situation.)

The Moore injury, assuming it isn't much, actually might be good given that Moore has had to take so many reps with Green and Kirk down, after Isabella and Johnson were in Covid protocols. Kingsbury is trying to find the silver lining of the various wide receiver injuries right now.

"That gets tougher when you try to manage reps as guys get nicked up or are out," Kingsbury said. "You only have so many bodies so certain guys have to go more. You have to monitor it the best you can. From an offensive perspective, it's good to get those young guys the reps, it's good for Kyler to work with people. I don't mind it, but you want to make sure you don't overload them."

BENJAMIN MAKING STRIDES

Considering he was a seventh-round draft pick, running back Eno Benjamin has plenty of fans, mostly because he starred for Arizona State in college. It was frustrating for some of those crossover ASU/Cardinals fans to see Benjamin make the team but sit inactive for all 16 games in 2020.

Benjamin isn't a lock to be active or even make the team in 2021 yet. But is inability to do much on special teams – and an overall rededication to fighting for his role – has made an impression. Benjamin even got some reps with the first unit Thursday (although the running backs often cycle through more than some other positions.)

"Good to see," Kingsbury said. "I can't tell you how far (Eno) has come from last training camp to now, the way he is approaching the game, study habits, in the classroom. We all know he is dynamic when the ball is in his hands but he is starting to do those other things in pass protection and on special teams we have been waiting to see."

BURNS ACTIVATED FROM COVID LIST

The Cardinals activated rookie cornerback Lorenzo Burns from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, after Burns had been on the list since the beginning of camp. To make room on the roster, the Cards released cornerback Tae Hayes.

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