First-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche has been inactive the last two games — a healthy scratch, in hockey parlance — after playing the three games before that. The defensive lineman has only played in four games this season, earlier in the year derailed by a lingering ankle injury but of late hurt only by his own doing.
The Cardinals have plenty of defensive linemen, even when one or two are hurt, so Nkemdiche has been forced to earn playing time. And he’s not doing it. Coach Bruce Arians was asked about Nkemdiche’s progress.
“Talent, not an issue,” Arians said. “Maturity is. It’s just maturing.”
Arians said the same things about 2015 first-round pick D.J. Humphries, and the tackle never was made active the whole season. (Then again, since so many defensive linemen play and you usually stay static at tackle, it is in theory easier to get on the field as a D-lineman.) A few weeks ago, Arians was asked if the two situations were similar and he said yes. His evaluation has changed. Asked again if Nkemdiche’s spot was similar to Humphries, Arians quickly said “no.”
“D.J. worked harder,” Arians said.
It was a short yet emphatic statement about Nkemdiche’s place, especially since there were plenty of times last year when the Cardinals talked of Humphries’ need to mature. Arians likes to say rookies are usually ready to contribute by Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving eve, it does not sound like Nkemdiche is that close.
Tags: D.J. Humphries, Robert Nkemdiche
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