At this time of any NFL season, every team is banged up as they prepare for their final stretch of regular season games. J.J. Watt was placed on injured reserve in the middle of the season. DeAndre Hopkins suffered a torn MCL against the Rams and was placed on IR on Saturday. In surprising news mixed in with Hopkins, starting cornerback Robert Alford apparently suffered a pectoral injury and was placed on IR as well.
All are out for the remainder of the season but the Cardinals hopeful that all three can return some time during the postseason.
If in fact Robert Alford undergoes season-ending pectoral surgery, their current roster options to replace him remain thin. Outside of Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson, none of their other options have much starting experience.
Kevin Peterson and Jace Whittaker have very limited NFL experience and, if anything, are primarily special teams players. Breon Borders, who the Cardinals’ recently signed off the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, has played in 30 games in his career but has mainly played on special teams since going undrafted out of Duke in 2017.
Could Borders be the next Rasul Douglas, a player the Cardinals had on their practice squad earlier this season but plucked away by the Green Bay Packers and now experiencing a breakout year?
Maybe the Cardinals see something in Borders that may surprise all of us. He made five starts in six games last season that included 27 tackles tackles, five passes defensed, and an interception. At 6-feet 189 pounds and only 26 years old, there is no question he brings some level of intrigue.
Antonio Hamilton could see an expanded role in the slot that will allow Byron Murphy to stay exclusively on the outside. He played 62 snaps in the slot and 71 snaps out wide this season compared to Murphy’s 400 in the slot and 258 wide.
With all that said and assuming Alford is out for the season, here are five replacement options outside of the Cardinals’ organization to consider:
Bashaud Breeland - Waivers/Vikings
Breeland was recently waived by the the Minnesota Vikings after he had a verbal altercation with the coaches. Though he has struggled this season, the eight-year veteran had two respectable seasons with the Chiefs in 2019 and 2020. A change in scenery could do wonders for him. Breeland started all 13 games this season and made 63 tackles with two interceptions. He has 101 starts in his NFL career.
Darqueze Dennard - Colts’ practice squad
The Cardinals signed Dennard to a one-year contract during the offseason but did not survive the final rounds of cuts. The former first-round pick has plenty of experience playing in the slot and out wide at cornerback. He has familiarity with Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Vance Joseph in his time in Cincinnati and earlier this offseason in Arizona. He has 310 tackles, four interceptions, and 30 starts (85 games) in his seven years in the NFL.
Josh Jackson - Chiefs’ practice squad
The 25-year-old cornerback was a second-round selection by the Green Bay Packers in the 2018 NFL Draft. In his final season at Iowa, Jackson had eight interception and was named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year. He is a young cornerback with length (6’0’’ 196lbs). Jackson has 15 starts (43 games) and 87 tackles in his four-year pro career.
Dre Kirkpatrick - Free agent
Nowadays, most Cardinals fans remember Kirkpatrick from the moment with Eno Benjamin trucked him for a 21-yard touchdown in their 31-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers. And looking at last season, Kirkpatrick was arguably better than Patrick Peterson with both being the Cardinals’ starting cornerbacks in 2020. He had three interceptions in 11 starts with Arizona last season. It would not hurt to bring Kirkpatrick in for a tryout to see if the 32-year-old has anything left in the tank.
Brian Poole -Colts’ practice squad
Poole was one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL last season, allowing a 64.7 passer rating in 2020. He has been one of the best players at his position since signing with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2016. He had two interceptions and earned a 79.5 coverage grade by Pro Football Focus last year. The addition of Poole would allow the Cardinals to keep Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson on the outside as Poole stays at his position of strength in the slot. He is only 29 years old.
Maybe Malcolm Butler is an option if he chooses to return from his supposed retirement?
Cardinals will need to figure out their cornerback situation soon.