Cardinals expect improving DB Byron Murphy to contribute right away
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t answer questions about down-the-road decisions with certainty. Just more than one full week into camp, maybe that’s fair.
He did, however, lend a somewhat strong indication of what the starting defensive backfield will look like when the regular season opens with cornerback Patrick Peterson suspended for the first six games.
Offseason addition Robert Alford, veteran pickup Tramaine Brock and rookie second-round pick Byron Murphy will likely be the first three defensive backs. Which of Brock or Murphy plays at corner and nickel remains to be seen, though Murphy has earned reps in the slot over the past few days of practice.
“You know we’re still working through that but I think some combination of that, whether Byron’s out there or Tramaine’s inside,” Kingsbury said Thursday.
Murphy’s first few days of practice included an accidental run-in while defending Larry Fitzgerald in a non-tackling drill. Kingsbury, who hasn’t been much of a yeller, didn’t lay into the rookie, believing he was already “petrified” of potentially hitting a future Hall of Famer.
“I just had it in my mind. I should have eased up a little earlier, but hey, I’m just trying to make a play,” Murphy said.
Since then, he’s posted an interception, another near-interception in the end zone and a few batted down passes, including one defending Fitzgerald on Wednesday.
The Cardinals have forced Murphy, who played cornerback at Washington, to learn corner, nickel and safety in the spring. They’ve attempted to reel him in with reps at just corner and nickel as he prepares to take live snaps.
Teaching Murphy the entire backend was necessary especially with Peterson’s suspension, Kingsbury said.
“He has a big job for us,” added defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. “The first month and a half of the season, he’s going to have a chance to play and help us win. But he’s a smart kid, he wants to play well for us.
“He’s had his ups and downs in practice — that’s a good thing. Have them now rather than later. He’s fully engaged and wants to be good.”
Murphy is utilizing an invaluable resource of knowledge in Peterson, who he goes to with questions about coverage or footwork.
And Peterson has welcomed adding the role of teacher to his duties as lockdown corner. He believes that once Murphy settles into a position, the rookie will be ready to play on Sept. 8 when Arizona opens the year hosting the Detroit Lions.
“Byron is definitely — he’s coming along, very steady right now,” Peterson said. “They got him playing all over the place so his head’s kind of spinning, he’s not really sold on one position just yet, but I mean, he can play it all. A great, great asset for us being he’s very interchangeable.”