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Who will start at CB2 for the Arizona Cardinals?

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With another unfortunate season ending injury to Robert Alford, the Cardinals starting cornerback position opposite Patrick Peterson is up in the air for what feels like the umpteenth time.

Steve Keim has brought in a few vets recently to help with depth at the position but more importantly, to find a player to step up to the plate as the Cardinals starting CB2. Here we take a look at the potential candidates that are currently on the roster.

Favorite

Dre Kirkpatrick

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Keim time was upon the organization again, as within days of the Alford injury, the Cardinals managed to sign the capable Dre Kirkpatrick to a one-year veteran minimum salary ($1.05 mil). Dre comes in as the immediate favorite as he is the most established corner on the roster outside of Patrick.

Factoring into the signing is Kirkpatrick’s relationship with DC Vance Joseph, who coached him for two years in Cincinnati. Last year he was hurt in week 6, and placed on IR with a hyper extended knee. He’s the clear leading in the clubhouse as he has tons of experience and was consistently one of the highest paid Bengals defenders.

With that being said he has NEVER started 16 games. He has ended the season on the IR two years in a row, and he’s know for his weak tackling.

Kirkpatrick’s career PFF coverage grades

We don’t need to mark up the above graphic to see the decline in available games as well as defensive grades. He’s the most well known candidate but he will have to hope the new scenery can help rejuvenate his career.

Luckily it seems as if there is something about the CB position opposite Patrick that gives new life to veteran careers. Marcus Cooper, Antonio Cromartie, and Tramon Williams and others performed well and went on to a bigger long term deals the season after.

Incumbents

Byron Murphy

Image Credit: Arizona Cardinals
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First thing first, Byron Murphy is getting starter level snaps this season.

The 33rd overall pick of 2019 was supposed to be introduced slowly to the pro game. However, a Peterson suspension along with another Alford IR trip resulted in Murphy playing the fourth most defensive snaps in the league. Not only that, but the Cardinals probably had the worst pass defense in the league for the majority of last season.

Byron was drafted to play nickel corner, to take advantage of the ball-hawk abilities he excelled at in college. He was forced to play outside all of last year and was rated the 107th best CB per PFF (330 snap minimum). With that being said, he showed an impressive tackling ability and all the physical tools needed to succeed at this level. Hopefully he can stay inside where he’s spent the last two off-seasons working.

Despite a rough year, there were plenty of bright spots
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Kevin Peterson

Image Credit: Arizona Cardinals
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We covered Kevin Peterson a little bit a couple weeks ago. Among some of the things we highlighted included him not giving up a touchdown, and only one completion over 30 yards in 183 coverage snaps last year. We also mentioned that he played mostly before Patrick was back, while many of the players seemed to know the defensive scheme.

See who else we think could make an impact this year in the desert.

Practice squad possibilities

The following players have spent the off-season with the Cardinals, and may be called upon if the four CB’s on the roster don’t perform up to the teams standard.

Chris Jones

Image Credit: Arizona Cardinals
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Chris Jones helped fill the void caused by the Peterson suspension last year, starting three games in his absence. He played meaningful snaps in six games and graded out positively in coverage. Per PFF he was actually the Cardinals highest rated corner in that category:


Player
PFF Coverage Grade
Patrick Peterson64.3
Byron Murphy48.5
Tramaine Brock66.6
Chris Jones72.6
Kevin Peterson61.3

Jones hasn’t had consistent opportunity yet but he has shown promise. In some of the more high level match ups he faced last season, he did well. For example, he did not allow a reception in the Carolina game on two targets, surrendered one of four targets when matched up on Tyler Lockett, and had a pass breakup and only two short completions against Brandin Cooks in week 17.

Jace Whittaker

Image Credit: AP
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His must first make the roster, but Patrick Peterson has mentioned Jace Whittaker in the media; a good sign. The undrafted rookie out of Arizona has an opportunity to make the team and see some significant playing time. Whittaker is a smaller player, and better suited to play nickel corner. His smaller frame also allows him to move extremely smoothly as in the video below:

Whoever ends up playing opposite Patrick Peterson will have plenty of opportunity to prove their worth as they are likely to be one of the most targeted players in the NFL once again. The Cardinals can only hope someone steps up to the plate.

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