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Bene and the Vets

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Cardinals’ Veteran Secondary Taking Shape

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-OTA Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cardinals traded for CB Jamar Taylor, they solidified what is now taking the shape of a multi-talented veteran secondary.

CB-1: Patrick Peterson, 27, 2017 PFF grade: 79.6

SS: Budda Baker, 22, 2017 PFF grade: 84.5

FS: Antoine Bethea, 33, 2017 PFF grade: 86.7

CB-2: Jamar Taylor, 27, 2017 PFF grade: 74.0

Obviously, SS Budda Baker is the youngest of this group, but once could readily make the case that he played like a veteran as a rookie and now that Tyrann Mathieu has moved on, Steve Wilks has recently made it clear that the intention is to start Baker at SS and slide him to slot CB on passing downs.

There has been some anticipation that the Cardinals would sign a veteran safety to round out the team’s depth and sub package personnel. Tre’ Boston (Chargers) has visited twice, but has not agreed to a contract.

But the Cardinals feel like they already have a potential ace up the sleeve…

Enter Bene Benwikere (6-0, 200, 26, San Jose St., 5th round pick 2014) who played for Steve Wilks in Carolina. (BEN-AY BEN-WICKERY)

While Benwikere is not a blazer (4.59 at pro day), he is a sticky cover ball hawk who set the career interceptions record at San Jose St, with 14.

What Benwikere lacks for pure straight-line speed, he more than makes up for with quick feet (6.93 3 cone) , fluid hips which allow him to adjust well to double moves and an impressive 40.5” vertical which allows him the ability, when necessary, to cover TEs and tall WRs.

When Wilks announced his intention to play Budda Baker in the slot---a role that Baker thrived in at the University of Washington, the corresponding move was to shift Benwikere over to nickel safety where he can match up versus TEs and RBs and also play, depending on the situation, underneath or over the top in zones.

Benwikere made a name for himself at San Jose as a star contributor in sub packages. He excelled in both man and zone coverage’s and at times, played the nickel CB spot.

Coming into the NFL Benwikere needed to improve his strength (only 10 reps at 225 at the Combine) and his tackling consistency. With Steve Wilks’ help, he made strides in these areas at Carolina. Last year in Dallas, Benwikere made his mark on special teams and earned a PFF grade of 76.7. In his 4 year NFL career, Benwikere has recorded 104 tackles (78 solo) and has intercepted 2 passes. Here is one of those picks (versus Drew Brees):

While the Cardinals still appear to have interest in signing CB Bashaud Breeland and S Tre’ Boston, it is good to know that the coaches are high on Bene Benwikere as a key contributor and a potentially impactful playmaker in sub packages and on special teams.

“Hey kids, shake it loose together…the spotlight’s hitting something that’s been known to change the weather….you’re gonna a hear electric music,…solid walls of sound…he’s got electric boots, a mohair suit…it’s B-B-B-Bene and the Vets…”