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Training camp battles: Defensive Backs

Without Patrick Peterson, the spot for CB1 is up for grabs.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into training camp the Arizona Cardinals have a few positional battles to iron out, as do most NFL clubs. In what seems to be a “win-now” mindset, the Cardinals roster has some questions marks that can prove to make or break this team’s 2021 outcome.

Veteran shopping spree?

Losing long-time cornerback Patrick Peterson left a void in the secondary. Who is CB1? This is important to figure out because the trickle-down effect will soon follow. Byron Murphy has a leg up over the competition as he is the only corner to play over 70% of the defense's snaps.

The cornerback room has a few new faces that were brought in this off-season. Super Bowl champion and veteran Malcolm Butler comes in with loads of experience to help this young secondary. Butler is scrappy, gritty, and as competitive as they come. He is possibly

The Cardinals brass made the decision to add as much veteran experience to the defensive backfield as possible.

The team also signed veteran cornerback Darqueze Dennard after spending six years with the Cincinnati Bengals. Dennard adds inside/out and fits defensive coordinator Vance Joseph’s press man alignment. In addition, they brought back veteran Robert Alford. His knowledge of the defensive scheme will be valuable if only as a tutor to the newest members of the defense.

Lastly, former Panthers and Raiders cornerback Daryl Worley signed to join this secondary. Not a lock to make the roster by any means, but another veteran with plenty of experience.

Young names to know

During the NFL draft in April, Steve Kiem decided to add two more defensive backs UCF’s Tay Gowan and Florida’s Marco Wilson. Both are athletically gifted coverage defenders. Wilson is more accustomed to playing off-man coverage with a three to a five-yard cushion. He clicks and closes with a great burst.

Gowan is used to playing zone, off-man, and press-man coverages. I spoke with him a few months ago prior to the NFL draft. He explained that he is more comfortable in press alignment. He will add athleticism, speed, and length to this defensive back room.

The return of third-year safety Jalen Thompson will be a welcomed sight. An ankle injury ended his season after five games in 2020. Budda Baker needs a reliable running mate in the backend, a healthy Johnson showed promise as a rookie. Deionte Thompson is heading into year three with the Cardinals, he has shown flashes in coverage. Especially, with Baker being the elite swiss army knife, Thompson could earn more snaps as the deep safety.

Figuring out the best lineup is important. Training camp is a great place to start. The battle in the secondary will be one to watch closely over the next month.