Arizona Cardinals abandoned Ship-ley too soon

Rookie wide receiver Jaxon Shipley (16) deserves to be on the starting 2016 Arizona Cardinals roster

Berto Gonzalez, Sports Editor, Puma Press

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“Thin slot receiver who does his best work in space against zone coverage. Lacks the desired quickness and route running to free himself from NFL man coverage, but has the hands to pluck it when the ball comes his way.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com 2015 Draft profile.

The above statement was the bottom line for former University of Texas wide receiver Jaxon Shipley on his draft profile after he completed the NFL Combine in 2015. Shipley stands at 6’0” and 190 lbs. and measured a 40-yard vertical time of 4.58 and 4.59 seconds, respectively. His profile praised his “soft hands” and ability to focus with traffic all around him and make tough catches across the middle.

The profile does go on to point out his injury battles in 2014, more than likely leading to his status as an Undrafted Free Agent (UFA) signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2015, according to the team’s official website. He was assigned to the practice squad where he stayed for the entirety of the 2015 season. As of the start of September of this year, the Cardinals cut him to make a final game ready roster of 53 men.

The Cardinals should’ve spared the young Longhorn. He is by no means the most dominant force at slot receiver, a la Wes Welker or (in the past 3 seasons) his veteran WR teammate Larry Fitzgerald. However, he could have been the perfect pairing to Arizona’s arguably stacked WR corps. Not so much for his physical attributes, but simply for strategy.

If you’ve kept up with the Cardinals over the past few seasons, the wide receivers have established themselves as the deepest set of hands this side of the Mississippi river.  Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown, JJ Nelson and Jaron Brown have been consistently ranked as one of the deepest receiving groups in the entire NFL. They have been vital to the Cardinals dominant offense, but they are only highlighted for their deep routes and big chunk yard plays. This is where young Shipley could be beneficial.

What I mean is that any good defensive coordinator for opposing teams is going to see the game footage for the Cardinals and determine that there needs to be more emphasis on the back half of the field while still maintaining significant pressure up front to rattle QB Carson Palmer. Where does that leave your intermediate coverage? A little more open than most people would figure.

Shipley is a good, albeit undersized receiver which is actually ideal at the slot position on the line of scrimmage. Give him a quick drag route across with Fitz going up one corner and John Brown zooming out deep on the other, and you can assure more completions and have that as an easy first down at times. His scouting report said his acceleration wasn’t necessarily top notch but he can get to his spots given his excellent field awareness. He could also be deceptive on an over under route whether he be the high man or not.

My bottom line? I’m not an expertly paid football analyst so I don’t expect this article to really shake any professional organization to its core. But from what I have seen this preseason and his limited time in Texas, I could have legitimately seen him as an x-factor on a variety of different offensive schemes. He could’ve made a great receiving corps deadly. But alas, and at the risk of losing whatever kind of creative writing credibility I had at all, that Ship-ley has sailed.

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Arizona Cardinals abandoned Ship-ley too soon