The Cardinals’ selection of Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming in the third round of the 2012 draft didn’t go over too well with a fan base clamoring for help in other areas, specifically the offensive line. But team sources tell us big plans could be in the offing for Fleming, who is expected to immediately challenge for the starting LCB job opposite 2011 first-round draft pick Patrick Peterson.
“I think he’s a serious challenger,” said one team source of Fleming, a two-year starter for the Sooners who registered seven interceptions and 24 pass breakups the last two seasons. “I wouldn’t call him the favorite, with both Greg Toler and (free-agent pickup) William Gay probably having a better shot at the job, but they like him a lot. They think he was well-coached at Oklahoma, and they’re definitely planning on him being a key on special teams.”
We hear Fleming could also be counted on to play safety in certain sub packages like 2011 free-agent addition Richard Marshall did so effectively last season before signing with the Dolphins. “He’s a lot like Marshall, but bigger and stronger,” the source said of Fleming, whose biggest strengths appear to be his closing ability, toughness and confident demeanor. “He had 23 bench reps at the Combine.”
Fleming is facing a major numbers game at left cornerback. In addition to Toler, who has bulked up a bit in the upper body after sitting out last season with a torn ACL, and Gay, who is familiar with Arizona’s “Steelers West” defensive scheme after playing his five previous seasons in Pittsburgh, Fleming will be battling A.J. Jefferson, who lost the starting job after seven games last season.