As he went through the pre-draft process earlier this year, there was no question about the raw talent of Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. Colleague Eric Edholm called Nkemdiche an “incredibly gifted big man” with an NFL-ready body.
The questions about Nkemdiche then were his motor and off-the-field red flags.
Those questions, it seems, remain. Unfortunately it’s the team that drafted him asking them.
The Arizona Cardinals took Nkemdiche 29th overall in the draft. On Wednesday, Arizona coach Bruce Arians talked about the rookie, who has played in just four games this season.
“Talent [is] not an issue,” Arians said. “Maturity is. And it’s just maturing.”
The Cardinals must have taken Nkemdiche because they believed they’d be able to get through to him, that locker room leaders like Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu would guide him (and his talent certainly was alluring). But it doesn’t seem to be working, not yet anyway.
Earlier this month, Arians compared Nkemdiche’s situation to D.J. Humphries’; a rookie last year, Humphries struggled with his adjustment to the NFL.
But on Wednesday, Arians said he wouldn’t compare Nkemdiche to Humphries any longer.
“No, D.J. worked harder,” Arians said.
Most recently, according to ESPN reporter Josh Weinfuss, Nkemdiche drew Arians’ ire when he was out of dress code for the team’s trip home from Minnesota on Sunday night. It’s team rule that players wear a button-down shirt and tie after a road loss; Nkemdiche was in a suit, but with a t-shirt underneath. He borrowed a tie, but needed a teammate to tie it, and wore it over the t-shirt. Eventually he was given an acceptable shirt.
Nkemdiche suffered a sprained ankle before training camp, an injury that sidelined him for much of camp. It sounds like things haven’t gotten much better since then.