Patrick Peterson is entering his eighth season as the Cardinals’ top corner, making the Pro Bowl every year. He was an expert at shadowing opposing teams’ top wide receiver but was penalized seven times and allowed four touchdowns in coverage in 2017. Nonetheless, he was so good at his job that it was boring. He was the least targeted cornerback in the NFL and only had two interceptions on the season. But now, his role on the team will be different. Steve Wilks will move him around, playing variations of packages such as shadowing any receiver on opposing teams, in addition to rushing the passer. This should be a big year for him.
Last year, the Cardinals found a short-term answer to the No. 2 cornerback position with Tramon Williams but he signed with the Packers in free agency. The position was not vacant for long. They traded a 2019 sixth-round pick to acquire Jamar Taylor from the Cleveland Browns. Despite being torched by Antonio Brown and T.Y. Hilton, he played well in coverage overall in 2017. Taylor is one of the better tackling cornerbacks in the NFL and is significantly younger, faster, and stronger than Williams. Though he won’t be handed the job, it is his position to lose.
Third-year cornerback Brandon Williams has mainly been a project to say the least, since being the Cardinals’ third-round pick in 2016. He was taken under Peterson’s wings in hopes of learning the fundamentals of the position. Though he flashed at times during the 2017 preseason, it wasn’t enough to earn him much playing time on defense. He is only 25 and has the size (6’0’’, 200lbs) and athleticism (4.37 40) that a corner should have. Steve Wilks is known for bringing the best out of his defensive backs. Maybe Williams will finally breakout this season.
The Cardinals made sure to add a couple players in the defensive backfield that are familiar with Wilks’ defensive playbook. Bene Benwikere was signed from the Cowboys to a one-year deal to compete to be the starter. He is familiar with Wilks, having started a total of 14 games in three seasons (2014-16) with the Panthers. Lou Young III played for Wilks and the Panthers in 2016, primarily on special teams.
Cardinals’ sixth-round pick Chris Campbell might not see the field right away but the coaching staff seems to like him a lot. The 6’1’’ 194-pound corner from Penn State did have an impressive 41-inch vertical and 11’3’’ broad jump at his Pro Day. He intercepted a pass during off-season activities as well. Wilks developed Josh Norman into one of the top players in the NFL. Campbell could be the next in line to reach stardom.
Undrafted free agent Tavierre Thomas had six interceptions and 15 pass breakups last season at Ferris State to be a Division II All-American. With his performance in college and a good Pro Day workout (4.38 40), this was good enough to earn him a top-30 visit with the Cardinals prior to the draft. Deatrick Nichols is another undrafted free agent from South Florida who ran an impressive 4.44 40 and jumped a 37-inch vertical during his Pro Day. He also had 11 interceptions in his college career. Jonathan Moxey was on the Cardinals practice squad last season and had 31 pass breakups during his time at Boise State.
There is a lot of talent at the cornerback position. Peterson is the leader of the defense and should be that much better with Wilks. The Cardinals hope that Taylor recaptures his 2016 form. Williams hopes to finally live up to expectations. Benwikere and Young gives Wilks familiar players to work with. All of these rookie corners have a legitimate chance at playing in the NFL for a very long time, making this a very talented group of players.
Who will win the No. 2 Cornerback job?
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