Cardinals pleased with rookie J.J. Nelson's progress


Last year Arizona Cardinals receiver John Brown became an offseason sensation.

The wideout nicknamed "Smoke," because of his speed, now has a tagalong this training camp in rookie J.J. Nelson, who coach Bruce Arians has come to call "Fire."

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"Wherever you see Smoke, you see Fire," Arians said, via the Arizona Republic. "That's his nickname now. He's always in Smoke's hip picket, following him around, and that's a good thing. Smoke's been through it and he knows how to help (Nelson) get to where Smoke is now and faster than Smoke got there last year."

Nelson, from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, ran the combine 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds, faster than Brown's 4.34. The question is whether Nelson can pick up the scheme and routes as fast as Brown did last year. So far, teammates like his progresses.

"It's definitely true," Brown said. "Coming in, we used to clown on him like, 'Oh, you run the 4.2 but you don't know the plays so you're playing slow and you're afraid to make a mistake.' But now he knows everything and when you put on the film, you actually see the 4.1 guy. Like, the kid is rolling. He's playing like his speed at the combine."

Added quarterback Carson Palmer: "He may be real quiet and reserved, but I think he's got a little swag to him now. I think he's kind of realizing, 'Maybe I can play with these guys. Maybe I'm not too small. Maybe I'm not too skinny,' all the knocks you get as you're coming into the draft and all the negative things that come up about yourself when you're from a small school."

These are a lot of the same discussions we heard last year from the Cardinals about Smoke, before he popped off for three touchdowns in his first three NFL games.

Whether "Fire" can follow the smoke remains to be seen. Michael Floyd's recent hand injury certainly opens the door for more reps for the younger player this preseason.

We know in Arians' offense that speed will be put on display. Arizona's "Smoke" and "Fire" possess plenty of that.

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