Kliff Kingsbury Confident in Young CBs, Cardinals Sign 10 to Practice Squad

Getty Images Marco Wilson and Byron Murphy are given huge tasks for the 2021 season.

The Arizona Cardinals faced a sudden hurdle that shocked everyone league-wide. On August 30, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that Cardinals veteran addition cornerback Malcolm Butler was dealing with a personal issue that had him considering retirement.

On August 31, Arizona made an official decision with the starting corner, placing him on the reserve/retired list.

This leaves Arizona’s cornerback group that was once somewhat troubling to completely troubling. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury told the public the team will look at help in that area.

In the meantime, starting CB Robert Alford is still not at practice due to being in the COVID protocol with LG Justin Pugh.

That leaves the corner room with just rookie Marco Wilson, third-year Byron Murphy, Tay Gowan and Luq Barcoo. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will certainly be given an extremely tough assignment.

On a positive now, Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus had the Cardinals as a winner in the preseason, mainly because of Wilson and Murphy.

Murphy earned a 92.8 PFF grade on 36 snaps, and Wilson earned an 85.9 mark across 45 snaps. Murphy, the 33rd overall pick of the draft, doesn’t have elite size, length and long speed, but he has the feet and hips to hold up on the outside. Wilson, on the other hand, has top-tier physical tools for a Day 3 selection. It’s going to be far more difficult for these two to replicate their preseason success in meaningful football games, but at least they performed at a high level on the reps they played.

The two young players will be given an opportunity that didn’t seem imaginable months ago.

Let’s dive in on the two key players.

Marco Wilson

The rookie out of Florida will surely become an important part of a win-now team in Arizona. Forget about only being drafted in the fourth round. Forget about how he threw a shoe on the field that cost the game for the  Gators against the LSU Tigers.

At one point Wilson was considered a first-round prospect. Wilson was a true starter as an 18-year-old. But injuries and a lackluster 2020 at Florida brought his stock down.

Wilson has shown in training camp and in the preseason that he can flat-out play. Coach Kliff Kingsbury knows what he’s capable of and has seen it first-hand, with a 50% forced incompletion rate in the preseason. Kingsbury’s comfortable with what they have.

Cardinals reporter Darren Urban seems to think the team really loves Wilson, which could signal the team just looking for depth instead of a big splash.

Kingsbury’s on the record of saying there’s “no question” Wilson can start Week one at outside CB.

“The moment’s not too big for him,” said Kingsbury.

Byron Murphy

Murphy has struggled early in his career, but people have to realize Murphy is still 23-years-old. His IQ looked phenomenal when he caught an interception from NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes in the endzone this preseason.

“It was a great play,” Murphy said. “I just saw the quarterback get out the pocket, knew he was going to roll out to our right and I knew a receiver was either gonna be on the front pylon or the back pylon. I just followed him, he threw the ball and I just made a great play.”

Murphy can play different positions to whether it’s outside or the slot.

“For myself, I don’t really listen to those types of things. That’s just me. I come here every single day just to work,” Murphy said. “Obviously as a corner, you’ve got to think you’re the best. My mindset is I’m the best corner in the league. But just like I said, I’m not a veteran, I don’t think. I’m only on Year 3 and still learning.”

Arizona should utilize other players at the slot position and let Murphy perform on the outside.  It’s now-or-never for the kid out of the University of Washington.

Practice Squad Additions

The Cardinals announced their practice squad on September 1 and all are familiar faces. The team brought back 10 players in WR Andre Baccellia, S Chris Banjo, WR Greg Dortch, LB Kylie Fitts, OL Sean Harlow, OL Koda Martin, TE Ross Travis, CB Jace Whittaker and S James Wiggins. They also granted an international player practice exemption for tight end Bernhard Seikovits.

It’s always important to remember each year many teams end up keeping their own players to the practice squad after the cut deadline. One player to note that wasn’t kept was WR KeeSean Johnson. Safety Chris Banjo is the most experienced player out of all the players brought back.

The most experienced Cardinal returning to the practice squad is Chris Banjo. Greg Dortch and Ross Travis are brought back, two players we highlighted that would’ve stung if others teams signed both.

There was also a report from NFL reporter Aaron Wilson that cornerback Rasul Douglas is signing with the practice squad, but the team hasn’t confirmed it yet.

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