On repeat: Cardinals continue search for CB opposite Patrick Peterson
TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s become the Arizona Cardinals’ version of Russian Roulette.
As they’ve played a game of “Who’s that corner opposite Patrick Peterson?” this season, it’s felt like a bullet has always been in the chamber.
Jamar Taylor (three games) and Bene Benwikere (eight games) made starts at cornerback this season, but come Sunday as the 2-9 Cardinals visit the Green Bay Packers to face future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it’ll likely be veteran David Amerson acting as the next man up.
Arizona released Taylor, who started the first three games before taking on a nickelback role, after he allowed a touchdown two weeks ago during a loss to the Oakland Raiders. The team followed a 45-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers by releasing Benwikere, who was benched in the midst of the Cardinals allowing quarterback Philip Rivers to complete his first 25 passes of the day.
“It’s the NFL and anytime things don’t go well, especially when you get beat kind of like that, things happen in the league,” Amerson said Monday. “I’m not that surprised.
“I’m just here to do the best I can, to lock in and really get the defense down and take care of everything I can control.”
Remembering that Peterson’s discontent led to behind-the-scenes trade requests earlier in the year, and concern over the defensive backs room will grow even more if his recommitment to the team following those leaked reports doesn’t hold heading into 2019.
That the Cardinals are turning to inexperienced defensive backs in this system says a lot about their urgency with five games to play. It surely says something about the patience that was lost with the players who have tried to hold onto significant roles opposite Peterson this year.
“I think it’s real hard period to find a legitimate, number two corner in the league. You just don’t have them,” Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks said.
“Coming in, you have expectations for those guys. As the year has gone on, you can see the inconsistency there. You can continue to sit there and allow that to happen, and as head coach it’s my responsibility to try and do what’s best for the team,” he added. “We wanted to make sure we gave other guys the opportunity to step up and see what they can do as well.”
That Wilks is turning to Amerson is a bit shocking in itself.
The six-year pro who had 68 games played for Washington and Oakland heading into this year, joined Arizona less than two weeks ago and has already been waived and re-signed. Undrafted rookie Chris Jones could also see time at corner, while fellow veteran Leonard Johnson has earned snaps as an interior defensive back.
Amerson is still attempting to build a chemistry with the regulars in Arizona’s defensive backfield.
“I think this scheme, it has a mixture of everything. It’s just … getting the communication down, knowing how to work with your safeties and getting that chemistry together,” Amerson said.
Amerson, who played more than half of the available snaps on Sunday in Los Angeles, said the Cardinals struggled to adjust once the Chargers got a feel for how they were playing them.
He added Arizona failed to make plays on 50-50 balls.
Wilks, meanwhile, considered many of Rivers’ completions a result of the veteran quarterback taking the available checkdowns.
“Philip is a future Hall of Famer. I’m not taking away anything in regards to that,” Wilks said. “A lot of the passes that had was short, quick, underneath, checkdowns — high-percentage passes. Kudos to him.”
CUNNINGHAM BECOMES A FULL-TIME STARTER
Rookie tackle Korey Cunningham’s rise has been fast.
He stepped in to the starting left tackle role two weeks ago. With D.J. Humphries out due to a knee injury for the second week in a row, Cunningham put together his second promising start.
Now, he’s earned the full-time job — just on the other side of the line.
Wilks expects Humphries back this week at Green Bay, and the team waived veteran Andre Smith on Monday, effectively naming Cunningham the starting right tackle.
“I came out of high school, a 225-pound tight end,” said Arizona’s 2018 seventh-round draft choice, who played both tackle spots at Cincinnati. “I guess I can say I got overlooked and everything like that so, you know, that’s just what motivates me now.”