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Cardinals’ Budda Baker will play more after injury to Branch

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals General Manager

With leading tackler Tyvon Branch on injured reserve, rookie safety Budda Baker will get extended playing time.

Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim joined Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Tuesday and said the 21-year-old Baker has earned a larger role in the Cardinals’ secondary.

“Sort of like you guys asked about having the opportunity to see Blaine Gabbert play, I’m excited about seeing Budda Baker play more and more football,” Keim said. “You know, I thought he’s been our best special teamer in terms of tackling and the things he does in space covering ground on punts. And just watching him defensively getting more and more comfortable in the system.”

Baker’s 11 special teams tackles this season is tied for the second-most in the NFL. Only Atlanta Falcons fullback Derrick Coleman has more with 12.

In place of Branch, Baker finished with six solo tackles and assisted on one tackle against the Seahawks on Thursday. He has 10 total solo tackles this season.

Baker probably cannot replace Branch’s production by himself, but Keim sounded excited to see if Baker can translate his impact on special teams to the safety position.

“He should have had an interception the other night against Seattle,” Keim said. “His ability to cover ground and close off the hash, to me, really puts him in a place that he can be a special player, in my opinion. He’s physical already, he’s extremely competitive. I just think the more football he plays, the better he’s going to get.”

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