Camp was ending, and with Zaven Collins in the interview room, the topic circled back to one that team entered the month with – how Collins and veteran Jordan Hicks were getting along in the context of their depth chart status. Hicks was the former starter, Collins the rookie current starter. After a camp in which the two spent a lot of time on the field in a package with all three inside linebackers (including Isaiah Simmons), it seems as if Hicks will get a chunk of playing time.
And off the field? Hicks had said early in camp, he was upset because of how the situation played out, but had nothing against Collins. Collins, now that we are at the end of camp, showered praise on his teammate.
"Jordan is awesome," Collins said. "He's a great dude and a great man. He gives great advice every day, things we should look for, we shouldn't look for, thing that are important, things that aren't, because he has been there and done that. He's been a great leader and role model for the team. He's been super helpful. We have a good relationship."
With the plan to use Simmons wherever he best can hurt opposing offenses week to week, a Collins/Hicks combo is good to be able to fall back upon. Collins also said he feels less pressure starting as a rookie knowing Hicks wouldn't be a dropoff if he would come in for the rookie.
Collins acknowledged that, not having met Hicks until camp started, he wasn't sure how he'd be received. But they talked and Hicks was a man of his word, all along saying he would help Collins where he could.
"We are literally like nothing happened," Collins said.
-- Hearing Kliff Kingsbury say the Cardinals are going to "err on the side of being conservative" with playing time, you have to wonder just how many starters will play at all. No Kyler Murray. Kingsbury ruled out Rondale Moore. Guys on the Covid list, some other injured players. I can't see D-Hop or Watt playing. This potentially look a lot like an old-school fourth preseason game, at least for the Cards.
-- Not sure what is happening with linebacker Chandler Jones and his health. Kingsbury said Jones was going to return to practice this week but he did not. Not a big deal – unless Jones doesn't find a way back on the field next week.
-- Kingsbury also said he is hoping guard Justin Pugh and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips come off the Covid list on Monday. Phillips is one to watch – he basically missed all of training camp. Not sure what his injury was, and whether Covid prevented an earlier return, but he has a big year in front of him.
-- The players that caught my eye in camp and/or preseason: Wide receiver Rondale Moore, of course. I liked A.J. Green when he wasn't sidelined. Speaking of wide receiver, I was surprised how many plays Greg Dortch made; he's banged up so I don't think we'll see him against the Saints. Cornerback Robert Alford, non-Covid version. Eno Benjamin was improved. Chandler Jones is in amazing shape.
-- The Alford news isn't great, but considering the Week 1 opponent Titans not only have their head coach Mike Vrabel out in Covid protocols right now but had to put starting QB Ryan Tannehill on there Thursday as well, it'll make for interesting prep for the initial game of the season.
-- If there is a guy in the true spotlight Saturday, it'll be Andy Isabella, since the wide receiver hasn't played in the preseason yet because of two Covid list stints. "He's really got a chip on his shoulder after missing 15 days," Kingsbury said. "He's a guy who works hard at his craft and you can tell he was mad to miss those days."
-- Collins is still learning how to run the defense from his position, but he did say the thought the unit did well against the Chiefs from "a mental standpoint."
"But we still missed tackles," Collins said. "It is football, there's only one thing you've got to do, that is tackle the football. So that bothers me."
-- Because there is no fourth preseason game, the schedule next week is funky compared to years past (or maybe I should say "normal.") Final cuts come on Tuesday. Practice squads and waiver claims should be set on Wednesday. And all players get a mandatory four-day bye weekend Thursday through Sunday heading into the first week of regular-season practice.
See you Saturday.