Nkemdiche optimism returns

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2018 – 9:51 am

In the brief time Steve Wilks has been head coach of the Cardinals, he does not come across as someone prone to hyperbole. So when he praises 2016 first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche after Nkemdiche’s first two underwhelming NFL seasons, it’s easy to take note.

“Robert is a very intriguing guy,” Wilks said of the defensive tackle. “I constantly talk to Robert all week about tempo … (because) I really have to slow Robert down. We don’t have on pads. And that’s a great thing. That’s a real good thing. You want to be able to slow guys down, not tell them to pick it up. Robert is going to be tremendous for us this year. He’s locked in, he’s focused, he came back in shape, he’s ready to go.”

Nkemdiche needs to do more on the field. He has acknowledged that. But all last season, his work ethic and practice habits earned him praise from coaches. Now he’s getting more from a new staff. He just needs to translate it to the football field. At this point, his draft status doesn’t mean much — one-time undrafted DT Olsen Pierre, who had a very nice breakout season last year, was more effective than Nkemdiche — but he still has a ton of tools.

He’s also now playing for a coach who is known for getting different personalities to play well (right, Josh Norman?) and for honing in on developing players. A big step forward by Nkemdiche would be an awesome way for Wilks to immediately put that player-development stamp on his new team.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’m committed to excellence this year,’ ” Wilks said. “So far, he’s been a plus on the football field. I’m excited about him.”


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43 Responses to “Nkemdiche optimism returns”

  1. By dkgambler1 on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Well it wouldn’t be a Cardinals minicamp without Nkemdiche hype. This should be the last year, either because he’s gone or performing at an acceptable level.

  2. By JTDG on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Nkemdiche is going to the HOF……… if there was one for the offseason.

    After so much hype the last two years, not by media, but by coaches, it is hard to take another offseason of how they have to hold Nkemdiche back.

    it would be nice to see him emerge.

    My two cents is , I’ve noticed he gets out muscled and blown back. That is his issue in real games. he does have quickness, but seems he doesnt explode in games. Maybe he thinks too much. Not sure.

    But with his quickness, I would take a look at him at DE. I think Pierre improves and holds on to that starting spot.

  3. By Rick on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Either he plays or he doesn’t . The team should have a back up plan. Just in case he isn’t up to speed on the field. I hope this is his year.

  4. By JTDG on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    The cards have needed to draft a CB2 for years. Losing Mathieu also shows a need at safety.

    Here is the DB draft history for the cards;

    1988 – cards draft Michael Brim in round 4, who played 4 games for the cards.

    1989 – cards draft Jay Taylor, who is a reserve for 4 years and Ricky Royal, who never makes the team.

    1991 – The cards score in round 3 with HOFer Aeneas Williams, in round 4, the choose Dexter Davis, who starts 3 games in 3 years

    In 1994, the cards draft a pair of CBs in Perry Carter and john Reece. Neither plays a down for the cards.

    1995 – they take two more CBs. Cedric Davis , who never plays a down for the cards, and Tito Paul, who starts 7 games over 3 years.

    In 1997, the cards use the 9th overall pick for Tom Knight. He plays 5 seasons and starts 53 games, never really cementing that CB2 opposite Williams. The cards also took Ty Howard in round 3 who starts 2 games for the cards.

    1998, the cards grab Corey Chavous with the 33rd pick overall. I still remember Corey being mobbed on the field holding the newspaper stating the cards are in the playoffs. Corey only started 24 games over 4 seasons, but had a big career as a starter with Minnesota.

    The cards also found an ASU Linebacker, that they converted into a safety. He became a fan favorite right away. But Pat Tilman became so much more after 9/11.

    In 1999, the cards took Paris Johnson, who never played a down, and Coby Reinhart, who started 4 games in 5 years.

    In 2000, the cards took David Barrett, who started 39 games in 4 years. He left via FA to the Jets where he played for 5 more years starting 46 more games.

    In 2001, a sad year as the cards trade Aeneas Williams to the rams. With the 2nd rounder they got, the chose Michael Stone, who never started for the cards.

    But they did land ROH safety Adrian Wilson in round 3.

    In 2005, the cards pass on Aaron Rodgers, Demarcus Ware, Derrick Johnson and Thomas Davis, instead choosing Antrel Rolle. Rolle started at CB till he found his spot at safety having a long and successful career at FS. In round 3, the cards chose Eric Green. Green was a starter but was injured often. He started 33 out of 64 games.

    In 2008, the cards chose with the 16th pick, DRC. Cromartie became a star in az but ended up being a major piece in the Kevin Kolb trade in 2011.

    In 2009, the cards came back with two more DBs, Rashad Johnson and Greg Toler. Johnson plays 7 seasons , starting in 41 games, while Toler , troubled with injuries, lasted 3 years with the cards before becoming a starter for Indy.

    2011, the cards take with the 5th overall pick Patrick Peterson. Pat P goes on to become the best cover CB in the game. Many thought he would be paired with DRC, till the trade happened.

    In 2012, the search for Pat P’s CB2 begins. The cards take Jamell Fleming in round 3, who lasted two years with the team. They also took Justin Bethel . Bethel goes on to the probowl as a special teams player but could never capture the CB2 spot year after year.

    In 2013, the cards take the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu. The badger quickly becomes a fan favorite, but injuries in 2013 and 2015, slowed his career and a horrible contract caused his release this year.

    In 2014, the cards take in round one Deone Bucannon. Buc is immediately moved to ILB. He never plays in the secondary.

    In 2016, the cards draft a RB turned CB in Brandon Williams. He is promtly thrown into the starting lineup and fails miserably. He is currently on the side of mike cartons as a missing person.

    In 2017, the move up to draft Budda Baker. Budda showed lots of promise as a rookie and the cards are expecting big things for him. Rudy Ford also was drafted and is a reserve.

    The cards enter 2018 with needs at CB2 and could use a safety. I would think the cards use a draft pick to address these needs.

  5. By Amir on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Another fine Keim first round gem…

  6. By RagingREDBird on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    A fresh start could be good for him. Playing DT in a 4-3 could also help.

    My gut still tells me he plays for only the money and does not love the game. Nothing he has done gives me reason to think he is ready to work for success or work thorough pain.

  7. By Scott H on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Ah, yes….it is that time of year when optimism runs high for Robert Nkemdiche. That time of year when he says all the right things and the head coach says all the right things and we hear how good he looks…..

    And then the regular season starts.

    And spare me the negativity business. I’m only going by what we’ve seen two seasons in a row. What we’ve ALL seen. He has been a training camp terror.

    And a regular season mirage. Fitting perhaps, that he plays in the dessert?

  8. By Scott H on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    JTDG –

    RE: Brandon Williams as a missing person

    Your line about him being seen on milk cartons as a missing person was priceless!

    But though I enjoy your humor, there is really nothing funny about continued draft picks from Keim that continue to disappear and contribute nothing.

  9. By D on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Keim drafted the wrong DT in that draft. I would have taken Chris Jones or Vernon Butler.

  10. By Fred on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    lets see what he can do in camp . he has not played well if at all. I don’t know if we can trade him. they may need to cut him. just another first round bust by SK? Lets hope they draft better this year.

  11. By JCH on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Scott H-
    Re- Watson or draft or whatever we were talking about.

    Sorry about that when I said “told you so” on the other page. I did not mean to be mean,offensive, rude or anything just know i meant it in the best way. Its just some highschool slang I picked up. Thank you for the advive tho i will try not and use “I Told You So” anymore because i can see how it can come across rude. Just know i did not mean to be rude or anything. Thank you for the lesson! It will probably pay off in the future maybe in a job application or a joob interview.
    Also LES GOO CARDINALS! #MakeCardinalsGreatAgain!

  12. By Steve on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Nkemdiche always shows up in practice….then disappears in games. He was a bad draft choice.

  13. By Dr. G. on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    Robertschizel Nkemdichalschizemdizel…not been a “”go for it”” guy to now. It’s always about potential…what he could be!

  14. By Scott H on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    JCH –

    No, you weren’t being rude or offensive or anything like that. Relax!

    The “advice” was kinda tongue in cheek.

    As you were. Carry on!

  15. By JTDG on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply


    With Deone Bucannon playing LB at 215-220 and other LBs in that same range, let me ask you to make a speculation.

    If Pat Tillman was coming out in the draft this year, do you think he would have been drafted as a LB (his college position), and do you think today’s NFL would have fit him better?

  16. By Darren Urban on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Tillman

    I’m not sure he would have fit better because I’m not sure he had the kind of speed that most teams are looking for from those guys. But obviously, he might have had a better chance to play linebacker.

  17. By Scott H on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    With Nkemdiche…’re a first round pick and after two seasons, you’ve got colossal bust written all over you. If you’re tuned in at all, you hear what people are saying.

    And if what others are saying doesn’t matter to you, then what about your own opinion of yourself and how you’ve performed in the NFL so far??

    I mean…..if you’ve got a pulse at all, at least ONE of those two things has to be getting to you at this point. If it’s not….then that may be the problem.

    But I’m hoping this kid DOES have a pulse and that he IS coming into this season with a whole lotta that not-gonna-be-denied attitude that he seems to need.

    It’s not too late. If he can find it and bring it this year, then all could be forgiven. And he could become a great story here.

    But by the 3rd season…..look, you’ve either got this in you or you don’t.

    But here is what’s not gonna happen on my end, and I could hardly blame anyone else for feeling the same way – I am NOT getting my hopes up based on anything I see in training camp or the pre-season. Not one ounce. If he has 10 sacks in 10 plays in the first season game……hey, nice. But it doesn’t count.

    My evaluation of him starts in Week one. Period. And hopefully, it won’t be over by Week 8 because he’s disappeared again.

    His staying healthy would certainly help.

  18. By Coach K on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    OKAY. One week early and I’m giving my HOPE FOR Mock.

    Involves a trade up in round one giving next years 1 and 2 for 2019.

    1. Baker Mayfield, QB
    2. Christian Kirk, WR
    3. B.J. Hill, DT
    3. Mark Andrews, TE
    4. TreQuan Smith, WR
    5. Parry Nickerson, CB
    6. Will Clapp, C
    7. Roc Thomas, RB

    This what I hope we can do.

    Fire away boys….

  19. By drummer-1 on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply

    I wish Nkemdiche gets cut go to the Seahawks and just run havoc over the Cards.. I just want to laugh.. Please make that happen..We need 53 1st rd picks on the team, i’m sure something will still be wrong

  20. By NJAzCardsFan on Apr 20, 2018 | Reply


    RE:” Brandon Williams as a missing person…

    Your line about him being seen on milk cartons as a missing person was priceless!”

    Actually, that was my line……

    We all will see what “Gems” Keim comes up with this year….. “every once in a while, a blind squirrel finds an acorn”…..

    It just really sad what Cardinal fans have to endure sometimes…….

  21. By Dan Nicholson on Apr 21, 2018 | Reply

    He may be one of those players you tell just go out and play, don’t over think. Their are players in different pro sports that are better off leaving them alone because they can’t be changed fundamentally. I said last year maybe DE would better suit him & obviously JTDG sees it too.

  22. By Larso on Apr 21, 2018 | Reply

    Go Robert!!! I believe in you !!

  23. By Big Ken on Apr 21, 2018 | Reply

    This will be Nkemdiche’s 4th season on the team, a do or die situation if the team is going to pickup his 5th year option.

  24. By Coach K on Apr 21, 2018 | Reply


    In the 3-4 scheme, he has been a bust.

    Let’s see how he plays in a 4-3 with another tackle two gaps away and a Mike backer in the middle occupying the center.

    This will be do or die for Robert.

  25. By clssylssy on Apr 21, 2018 | Reply

    Here we are with a new coaching staff with new ideas and developmental techniques. Coach Arians wasn’t big on technique and attention to details, and the Cards have never been known for developing players so, perhaps Coach Wilks will see something in Nkemdiche that he can turn into a top notch defensive force. Apparently, Keim saw something raw that he felt could be tapped into so, maybe this will be Nkemdiche’s year. Sometimes players come out of the draft and have no say in what lies ahead, whether they will sit a year, or how they will be used. Certainly, they are young and immature and we all expect an early rounder to be a starter but that has not been the history in Arizona.
    Robert is a big and physical guy who seems to fit the bill for what Coach Wilks seems to like so, given the fact that we have rather slim pickens,and few draft picks, maybe with this new developmentally focused defense, he can become an asset.
    BA was a good offensive coach and won us a lot of games but, at the same time, some of his old school methods of devaluing his players, even in a loving and joking way, I think were counterproductive and didn’t always get the players best efforts. He wasn’t as much of a detail guy as it seems Coach Wilks appears to be, and perhaps, if given the chance, we will see big changes in some of our players we previously hadn’t counted on.
    Beginning the season by scapegoating individual players like Bethel and Nkemdiche has become kinda the norm and is probably not the best way to team build. We have seen many players who didn’t do well as Cards go on to find success on other teams and become Pro Bowlers. A lot of times, its not so much the player but a matter of immaturity and the system.

  26. By JCH on Apr 21, 2018 | Reply

    Coach K-
    Mock Draft-

    Nice Mock Draft!! That would be the best draft they could do! I was hoping for them to trade up in draft and grab a QB in round 1 and round 2 they grab up Christian Kirk! The way you put it was music to my ears.

  27. By Dan Nicholson on Apr 21, 2018 | Reply

    Coach K
    Re: Mock Draft
    Definitely like the picks. I would go for the TE from South Carolina over Andrews. And maybe get a CB earlier like a Mike Hughes after Kirk is drafted. Like your picks overall

  28. By Big Ken on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    For what ever it’s worth, I read a piece from Yardbarker that Bruce Arians endorses the AZ Cardinals drafting Lamar Jackson. Wow

  29. By Ditship on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    I want to see Dkemdechi with one gap assignment. I think the 3-4 didn’t suit him. We’ll see.

  30. By JTDG on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    Here is an interesting take on the schedule. Sounds like the season will be likely determined by how the cards play the first five games.

    Arizona Cardinals
    There’s a lot for new coach Steve Wilks to worry about, especially on offense. The early schedule, however, should provide the potential for a soft opening to his tenure. The Cardinals open with three of their first four games at home, with only one playoff team from 2017 in the season’s first five weeks. The schedule looks much more difficult after that, so Wilks will need to pile up some early wins.

  31. By Scott H on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply

    My God, isn’t the draft here YET????? Can we PUH-LEEZE get this thing started already???

    Didn’t the draft used to be in March?? Can’t we go back to that?

    Yet another thing the NFL has screwed up along the way. But, of course, if they weren’t benefitting from it, it wouldn’t be happening, so….

    How long before the NFL starts doing the draft in London or Japan or some other foreign city? Care to place your bets? OR….

    Which one do we think will be done in a foreign city first – the draft or the Super Bowl? I think it’s inevitable. The NFL is intent on going global ( = getting bigger ) and I don’t think it will ever reach a point where they say OK, that’s enough. The NFL doesn’t know the meaning of the word “enough.”

  32. By Coach K on Apr 22, 2018 | Reply


    SC TE will be long gone before third round. Yes, I agree. He is good.

  33. By clssylssy on Apr 23, 2018 | Reply

    I agree that getting a good start “out of the gate” when we have home field advantage on three of our first four games will be important but how do you see those games stacking up, realistically. With every team having some degree of change from last years roster, I think our offense has the most question marks, or maybe our holes are just more clearly defined. I remember when BA came it took half the season for Carson & the Vets to get a hand on the playbook and I believe that this year will be the same…or not? The playbook may not be as complicated but the attention to technique and detail while a sound investment in the end product, may also have it’s challenges in the beginning. know I’ve read Fitz’s role will be different but it doesn’t sound like anything he hasn’t done before (albeit, maybe five years or however long we were ushered into the BA era). The Redskins now have Alex Smith, who is also new to the job, but has some experience in adapting to new systems, as does Sam Bradford. I have to assume the first half of the season will be Bradford’s purview (depending on IF we draft our QBOF & who that is), if he can stay healthy. So, with David and Fitz and Greshem not playing some or all of those games, that leaves us a bit thin on offense.
    From the looks of things, it seems as though, the Cards are looking at the draft through a defensive lense (as many expected given Wilks background) with the drafting of Mikah Fitzpatrick to take over for the Honey Badger.
    I was catching the draft from the airport and only saw part of it. What was your analysis of the First Day? (I think Mayfield will be a good fit with the Jets and Coach Bowles).

  34. By clssylssy on Apr 23, 2018 | Reply

    LOL! I’m losing it! I lost a week somewhere and THOUGHT i was watching the draft last night while waiting in the airport, only to realize this morning that I had been watching a MOCK DRAFT on!!! So, JTDG & others, today I’m having a big laugh on myself with hope we will get our QBOF, but I think we did better in Mel Kiper’s draft last night that we have in previous years with Keim and so am being POSITIVE (Jet lag is real!!)

  35. By Scott H on Apr 23, 2018 | Reply

    Was listening to some interesting football / draft talk on Fox Sports radio today and the Cardinals became a focal point of the discussion for awhile. The host had an interesting opinion that basically stated the Cardinals are the ONLY team in the NFC that does not have a future plan at QB. The ONLY team. So, how was it possible that nothing was being heard or observed of the Cardinals trying to move up in the draft?? To this host, that wasn’t making sense.

    Obviously, this host does not see either Bradford or Glennon as a future plan at QB for this team. Hence, per that opinion, the Cardinals do not have a future plan at QB. And for what it’s worth, I agree. I don’t see a future with Bradford or Glennon. So, like the host I was listening to, I am wondering what the plan is.

    Or if there really is one.

  36. By Darren Urban on Apr 23, 2018 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: Future plan

    Obviously, the Cardinals need a future plan.

    But what is the context? How far in the future? Because at first glance, I don’t know if I’d put the Giants, Redskins or Saints in a spot where they know their future plan at QB.

  37. By Scott H on Apr 24, 2018 | Reply

    Darren –

    I get your question. And I had similar thoughts about some of the very teams you mention. But –

    Giants – obviously, they believe Eli has a few years left, so for them, that is their future. But given he probably has no more than 2 years left in him….yeah, the Giants need a plan for the future beyond that. But I don’t think Eli Manning has missed a game in his career due to injury so they have his durability on their side. Very un-like what we appear to have with Bradford.

    Saints – Brees just signed on for two more years, and the Saints appear to be a legit contender. So, the Saints are where the Cardinals were with Palmer – trying to win NOW and leaving the future for another time. So, Brees is their future. And if Brees can bring them another SB before he is done, then I think their fans will forgive the organization for not having his replacement ready to go immediately. Wouldn’t it have been the same here if we’d won a SB with Palmer?

    Redskins – well, isn’t Alex Smith their future? He may not have 10 years left in him but I think he is a solid QB that buys them time. Not a ton of it, but some.

    To be clear, I didn’t necessarily agree with the opinion that the Cardinals are the ONLY team in the NFC that doesn’t have a future plan at QB. I DID agree with the opinion that neither Sam Bradford or Mike Glennon appears to be a plan for their future at QB. I also agreed with the opinion that the Cardinals are not likely to address their future plan at QB in THIS draft by sitting at 15. If they want to address that issue in THIS draft, they need to move up.

  38. By Darren Urban on Apr 25, 2018 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: Brees/Palmer

    Sure it would have been the same with Palmer. And it’ll be the same with Bradford if somehow that happened. The reality is that every fan base is mad on some level with their team unless they win a Super Bowl.

  39. By Scott H on Apr 24, 2018 | Reply

    OK, so now we want to see Nkemdiche cut by the Cardinals so he can go to Seattle and spend the rest of his career crushing us…..

    Most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard, unless it was sarcastic. One can only hope maybe it was intended as sarcasm or humor.

    Gee, what ever happened to patience and waiting to see the finished product?

  40. By Scott H on Apr 25, 2018 | Reply

    Darren –

    And to be fair, wouldn’t you say that Cardinals fans, right now, have more of a right to be mad than fans of most other teams? No pro sports fan base has gone longer without a championship than we have. So, IMHO, it’s not like we’re no different than anyone else. To some extent, we ARE. Give me whatever fan base you want. Whoever it is, we’ve suffered longer.

  41. By Darren Urban on Apr 25, 2018 | Reply

    Scott H —

    RE: More right to be mad

    I mean, If you have been alive since the 40s, maybe. I get many fans are long suffering. I’m a Suns fan. They have never won a title in my lifetime. Neither have the Cards. So does the Cards’ fanbase really have the right to say they are “more” mad?

    In the end, this isn’t about “rights.” It’s never going to be adjudicated.

  42. By Scott H on Apr 26, 2018 | Reply

    Darren –

    RE: It’s never going to be adjudicated.

    Well, I wasn’t planning to take it to court, so……:)

    And right on cue, Eli comes out and says that 37 isn’t old for a QB. And Tom Brady would say damn right. 37 really isn’t old for Eli because he has had virtually no injuries during his career. For a skinny kid, he has been an iron man.

    So, there ya have it. He is the Giants future at QB. They can count on a 2-3 year window with him IF he is willing to play that long. I’m sure they have some idea as to what his intentions are. Bottom line, the Giants do not seem to need their QB of the future right now.

    Hmmmm…..might that mean the G-men might be willing to trade out of their spot in the top 5 IF the Cardinals are going to make a move to trade up? Yes, the Giants have other needs but might they be able to do that by trading down to 15 and picking up something extra in the process? Might sound good to them…..

    NOT saying that is what the Cardinals should do. Just a thought.

    If nothing else, at least by the time this day is over, we will know what everybody did in the first round and all the frantic, rampant, maniacal speculation can finally stop! Amen to that.

  43. By Jake Mitchell on May 5, 2018 | Reply

    I’ve posted my thoughts about Big Rob on forums and sites so many times, but each article like this I read just makes me start shaking my head all over again. I simply want to ask Nkemdiche believers, scouts, and coaches: Why in god’s name do you expect ANYTHING except mediocrity from Nkemdiche?? It’s like buying a Kia and then whining incessantly because it just won’t do zero to 60 in 3 seconds. Gosh, what a surprise! Nothing – and I mean NOTHING – about his college career suggested greatness. I’ve been an Ole Miss fan for nearly all my 51 years – born and raised in Oxford. Like everyone else I was THRILLED when Robert came to Ole Miss to play football with his brother Denzel. It was an exciting time to be a Rebel fan. And guess what all the coaches at OM were saying? “Oh man…this guy is a BEAST. We have to SLOW HIM DOWN to keep him from hurting other players!” Then the actual GAMES started, and it became immediately clear that something was missing. There was so little FIRE, an apparent lack of ferocity and passion. He actually had a decent Frosh year at DE. Then he moved to DT for his soph and jr seasons, and while he performed at a sub-standard level, the world continued to heap praise on him. The Nkemdiche hype machine has always been amazingly effective, even in the complete absence of elite performance. While Andrew Billings was getting 12 tackles for loss and 40 total, and Anthony Zettel was getting 17 TFL and 50 total, our buddy Big Rob was getting FOUR TFLs and 16 total. Yet, Nkemdiche was ranked HIGHER than both on many draft projections.

    I’m not ever going to question his physical gifts, but I absolutely question what so many people keep referring to as his “potential.” Three years in college and now two in the NFL, and he hasn’t shown ANY potential for elite play. The world insists amazing physical attributes = potential. But it’s just not so. There is no potential if the passion isn’t there.

    The most telling of ALL is the fact that in Robert’s last year at Ole Miss the guy who played backup to him, Breland Speaks, played only 1/3 to 1/2 as many minutes as Nkemdiche, and he made more tackles.

    Someone please explain to me why the world is waiting for him to do something he’s NEVER done.

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