The ongoing saga of the Cardinals’ second cornerback spot
Since his debut for the Cardinals in 2011, Patrick Peterson has been without a doubt one of the best cornerbacks in all of football.
The No. 5 overall pick from LSU in 2011 came into the league with a lot of hype, and he has managed to live up to it and then some. Peterson has started every single game since being drafted, and has made eight Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams in that span.
The side opposite Peterson has not seen the same type of stability, however. While Peterson has been the model of consistency over the past eight seasons, the Cardinals’ second cornerback spot has been a revolving door of players with varying levels of effectiveness.
With that being said, here are all of the players that have played cornerback for the Cardinals alongside Patrick Peterson:
The Cardinals opened up Peterson’s rookie season with second-year player A.J. Jefferson starting alongside him. Jefferson held this position for the first seven games of the season, recording 38 total tackles, 10 passes defended and one fumble recovery before having his starting spot taken by veteran Richard Marshall. Marshall started the final nine games of the season and tallied one interception, one sack and five passes defended during that span. Veteran Michael Adams also got a start in Week 13 of that season, and recorded four total tackles.
Before the 2012 season, the Cardinals replaced Marshall with former Steelers CB William Gay, who held down a starting spot for all but one game that year. Gay was decent in his lone year in the desert, as he finished the season with two interceptions, three forced fumbles and six passes defended. The team also got two starts from a returning Greg Toler and three from rookie Jamell Fleming, but neither had much of an impact in those games.
The 2013 season marked the first time during Peterson’s career that the Cardinals had a second cornerback start all 16 games, with Jerraud Powers being the one to do so in his first year with the team after four seasons with the Colts. Powers had an impressive debut season in Arizona, as he finished tied for eighth in the league with 17 passes defended to go along with 65 total tackles and one interception.
The Cardinals made a big splash at the cornerback position prior to the 2014 season, as they signed Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie to a one-year deal to pair with Peterson, who had already become one of the best defensive players in the league by then. Cromartie would go on to start every game that season and recorded three interceptions, 10 passes defended and one defensive touchdown, which was good enough to earn a third straight Pro Bowl berth. Powers also started 11 games that season, posting three interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble in those games.
Cromartie departed after the 2014 season, which meant Powers reclaimed the second cornerback spot for 2015. A calf injury caused him to miss three games, but he was still able to record 52 total tackles, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception. The games that Powers missed were started by Justin Bethel, who had mainly been a Pro Bowl-caliber special teams player at the time. In his four starts, Bethel had five passes defended and 22 total tackles.
Powers’ contract expired after the 2015 season, so the Cardinals traded for Marcus Cooper from the Chiefs to fill the role that Powers vacated. Cooper did a good job in his 13 starts too, finishing just outside the top 10 in interceptions with 4, one of which was returned for a touchdown, along with 11 passes defended and 69 total tackles. Bethel and rookie Brandon Williams also logged three starts apiece, with Williams opening the year in that role while Cooper got adjusted to his new team. Bethel in particular put up some good performances, which included a 66-yard pick six in the final game of the season.
Cooper’s solid play earned him a nice free agent contract in the offseason, which meant the Cardinals again needed to find a running mate for Peterson. Bethel opened up the season with the starting job and started out strong with an 82-yard pick six in Week 1. He lasted seven games in that spot, eventually conceding the role to longtime Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, who they signed away from the Browns before the season started. Williams started nine games after taking over and filled in well enough, posting two interceptions and 12 passes defended.
Last season was a frustrating one for the Cardinals in many different ways, and the second cornerback spot was no different, as the team could not find a long-term answer there. New acquisition Jamar Taylor started the year there, but struggled and was later supplanted and cut. Bene Benwikere took over for Taylor in Week 4, but eventually met the same fate that Taylor did after eight starts. Finally, late-season pickup David Amerson started the season’s final five games, picking up an interception and two passes defended in that span.