Free agency may be in its final throes, but the veteran market still offers some good fits for the two biggest holes on the Arizona Cardinals’ defense. The unit is a proven edge-rusher and experienced cornerback short of being playoff ready in 2022.
Fortunately, the latter position can be filled by a free agent familiar with the Cardinals. He’s a former Pro Bowler who faced the Cards twice a year when he played his first four seasons in the NFC West.
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Familiar Foe Can Solve Cardinals Coverage Issues
In a list of eight free agents who have yet to find a new home, Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay named Jackrabbit Jenkins as the cover man to plug the “glaring holes” in Arizona’s secondary.
Kay cited a statistic from ESPN Stats & Information revealing Jenkins was responsible for the third-most pass breakups, 43, in the NFL from 2018 to ’20. It’s the kind of number that proves Jenkins, who spent 2021 with the Tennessee Titans, remains an opportunistic corner.
He’s somewhat boom or bust, with Kay also referencing stats from Pro Football Reference, detailing how Jenkins gave up six touchdowns and 55 completions on 90 targets last season.
The Cardinals needn’t worry too much about Jenkins being beaten. He’s been a ball hawk ever since he entered the league as a second-round pick for the then-St. Louis Rams in the 2012 draft.
Jenkins spent four years with the Cards’ division rivals, intercepting 10 passes and scoring six touchdowns. Two of those scores came against the Cardinals in Week 12 during Jenkins’ rookie year.
It proved just the start of Jenkins’ long run of tormenting the Cardinals. He snatched another of his 27 career interceptions on this spectacular play from 2015 against Carson Palmer:
The knack for making as many big plays as he surrenders has never deserted Jenkins. He collected a further 17 picks and scored three more touchdowns during stops with the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and the Titans.
His last touchdown came when Jenkins was a member of the Saints and faced Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Cardinals have ample room for the type of splash plays Jenkins still generates.
Secondary Short of Wow Factor
It’s not unfair to say there’s a lack of a wow factor in Arizona’s secondary. The Cardinals intercepted a mere 13 passes last season, and returned just one for a touchdown.
That score came courtesy of Byron Murphy Jr. against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. Murphy is entering his fourth season in the pros and is under pressure to step up and lead a position group short on marquee names.
General manager Steve Keim attempted to improve things by signing Jeff Gladney to a two-year contract. The former first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings was killed in a fatal car crash in Dallas on May 30.
This season’s starting corners figure to be Murphy and second-year man Marco Wilson, with Breon Borders and seventh-round pick Christian Matthew also in the mix. It’s not a group that inspires confidence, especially since the Cardinals surrendered 30 touchdowns through the air and let opposing quarterbacks complete 65.4 percent of their passes last season.
Jenkins would offer an instant upgrade as an established and productive playmaker. He’s 33, but Jenkins can still get on the field, having started 13 games last season.
A short-term deal for Jenkins would increase the credibility of the most suspect area of the Cardinals’ defense.
There is a reason why Jenkins is still a FA. What he did 5 years ago or even 2 years ago is irrelevant. He is at best a backup.