Former top pick adept at disappointing Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01: Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01: Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche /

Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has failed to reach his potential due to an assortment of nagging injuries

You can bet that there were more than a few high-fives exchanged in the Arizona Cardinals’ “War Room” back in 2016. After all, it’s not often that a projected top-10 draft pick tumbles all the way down to the 29th slot. It has become abundantly clear, however, why that happened to the highly-touted Robert Nkemdiche.

A lack of talent has not been a problem for the Cards’ defensive tackle. In fact, on the rare occasions that Nkemdiche has apoeared on the playing field, the former “Ole Miss” star has been impossible to block at times. Watching him perform has brought back memories of the great Eric Swann, a former Cardinal who terrorized opposing offenses during the 1990’s.

What has plagued Nkemdiche the most has been a host of nagging injuries, dating back to his rookie campaign. Ironically, Swann faced the same issues during his time with the organization. The two-time Pro Bowler managed to overcome the setbacks in a big way, but will Nkemdiche be able to follow in Swann’s footsteps?

Things began to go wrong for the now 23-year old early on in his NFL career. During his initial training camp with Arizona in ’16, Nkemdiche suffered a high-ankle sprain. He’d go on to have a disastrous season, appearing in only five games and registering just one measly tackle.

The injury bug continued for Nkemdiche in 2017. A calf strain cost the 6’4″, 296 pounder four more contests. Nkemdiche tallied a disappointing 11 tackles, but did score a touchdown on a fumble return against the New York Giants.

Promises of a healthy, productive 2018 for Nkemdiche hit a snag last week. The newly-appointed starter left the Cards’ preseason matchup with the New Orleans Saints early, apparently suffering from a foot ailment. Head coach Steve Wilks expects Nkemdiche to be back for opening day, but would it be surprising if he isn’t ready to go by then?

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What Nkemdiche really needs to develop is some heart. Desire is instilled in an athlete at an early age, and isnt something that can be taught. Nkemdiche needs to start playing through the minor bumps and bruises, and prove to the Cardinals’ front office that he’s worth keeping around.