Special teams are “pretty much do or die” for Jaxon Shipley making Cardinals roster

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Carson Palmer’s ties to the Shipley brothers (Jordan and Jaxon) go all the way back to the 2010 season, when Palmer and the elder brother, Jordan, played together with the Cincinnati Bengals. That was Shipley’s rookie season with the Bengals, and Palmer’s last with them, as he’d move on to the Oakland Raiders the following season.

Shipley benefitted greatly from Palmer that season. He played in 15 games (four starts) and caught 52 passes for 600 yards and three touchdowns.

Jaxon’s brother learned a lot that season, and now he’s learning a lot in training camp with Palmer, who’s extremely impressed with what he’s seen from the young rookie, who he feels should definitely be in consideration for making the 53-man roster on Sept. 5.

“Yeah, I think he’s (Shipley) been in the discussion for a while now,” Palmer said. “You saw a little bit extra he didn’t know he had on some (kickoff) returns last Saturday (Kansas City Chiefs game). He’s a guy that can play all the positions, he understands the game, he’s played it at a high level for a big school (University of Texas), so he’s not coming from a small school trying to figure his way out; he’s played against really good competition.”

“He’s (Shipley) competed in (wide) receiver rooms against really good players, (and) highly recruited players,” Palmer said. “I’m excited about him. That’s a battle what’s going on in that (wide receiver) room right now. There’s only so many spots, and there’s a lot of guys in there.”

The respect pipeline that Palmer has for Shipley has a curve in it; it goes in the opposite direction from Shipley back to Palmer.

Obviously, Shipley grew up watching Palmer throw passes to his brother, so for Palmer to have that level of respect for him as an undrafted rookie free agent coming in fighting for a paycheck, Shipley can’t do anything else but reciprocate the love right back to him.

“For him (Palmer) to say something like that, (it) means a lot to me,” Shipley said. “Obviously, I don’t know for sure if I’m going to make the 53-man (roster) or not, but coming from him, that meant a lot to me for him to say that.”

What’s helped Shipley stand out to Palmer, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and others is his work ethic. He won’t be outworked by ANYONE. After Thursday’s practice, Shipley was out with fellow rookie wide receivers Trevor Harman and Ryan Spadola, and they were getting more reps in on the field, just trying to get better and better.

Shipley’s not averse to catching 1,000 footballs a day. He did it growing up with his brother. It’s looking like all those long workdays are starting to pay off for him.

“Back when I was younger, (we had) 7-on-7 tournaments all day long, and we’d be catching them. Even when I was younger, I was watching my brother play, and we’d just throw balls over, and over, and over,” Shipley said.

Shipley says on a normal day of practice with the Cardinals, he’d catch between 50-100 passes from the quarterbacks, so the volume level has been dialed down considerably, but the passes he’s catching are just as important as the ones he caught as a youngster.

“My family has always said you develop them (good hands) at a very young age. You can always tell someone who has really natural hands when they start out young. I think you can have somebody that can turn out older and have great hands, but I think it takes a little longer,” Shipley said. “When you’re younger, and you’re already used to that stuff, I think you’ll grow up, and it’ll be a lot more natural for you, and you won’t have to fight the ball as much.”

Shipley still has to fight with cornerbacks and safeties for the ball in practice, but his homegrown training has him in a good place so far in training camp, as it heads toward its conclusion next week.

“Yeah, I feel like with this last game (Chiefs) it definitely helped me out. Early on, it was a little bit of a struggle just getting back into things, and the speed of the game is a lot different,” Shipley said. “I think I’ve improved every day since then, so I feel like with these games coming up, I just gotta do what I can, both offensively, and (on) special teams to see if I can help myself out.”

It’s very difficult for an undrafted rookie free agent to make the final wave of roster cuts, and only be able to play their position and nothing else. Nowadays – especially with head coach Bruce Arians preaching the importance of quality special teams, and players making their marks on that unit – a guy like Shipley has to be adept at doing many things, so he can become indispensable when it’s time for Arians to sit down, and figure who he wants on his team come Sept. 13 when the New Orleans Saints come rolling into Glendale.

“I’m just trying to do what I can on special teams, because I know that’s going to be pretty much do or die for me,” Shipley said. “If I can make my mark on special teams, then I think they can look more to the offensive side of things, and say, ‘Well, he’s doing really good on special teams,’ and I think that makes me more valuable.”

Shipley doesn’t lay awake at night worrying about whether or not he’ll be here in a few weeks when the cuts start happening; he’ll go crazy doing that. All he can do is continue to be himself, and let the chips fall where they may.

“I try to come out here everyday with a good attitude, and just have fun, and just see how it plays out, and if I make the team that’d be great. I don’t get too caught up in worrying about that stuff,” Shipley said.

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