Cardinals CBs Wilson and Alford show promise in debuts

Sep 18, 2021, 11:15 AM | Updated: 11:41 am
Rookie CB Marco Wilson looks on during Cardinals training camp, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, at State Far...
Rookie CB Marco Wilson looks on during Cardinals training camp, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

The Arizona Cardinals defense will rely on a largely new group of cornerbacks this season.

Byron Murphy Jr. is the only one on the active roster who had a prominent role in 2020. However, the group is off to a strong start after Arizona’s 38-13 win over the Tennessee Titans last week.

Murphy led all corners in snaps in Week 1, followed by 2021 fourth-round pick Marco Wilson and veteran Robert Alford, who missed his fist two seasons with the Cardinals due to injuries.

Wilson played 91% of Arizona’s defensive snaps in his NFL debut, having to cover seven-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones several times.

“Marco Wilson, (I) watched him through the spring and in camp, I knew he can play,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph told the media on Friday. “But, sometimes it’s too big for young guys early and it wasn’t. It wasn’t perfect, guys. But he was relaxed, and he was playing against good people. And he challenged.”

Wilson turned heads throughout camp and the preseason, but it is a different order to step in as rookie in Week 1.

Murphy had to do so in 2019, taking a larger role after Patrick Peterson got hit with a six-game suspension for PEDs.

He passed what he learned through that experience to Wilson before the season.

“I just told him to come in and play his game,” Murphy said Friday. “‘Don’t think about it too much. Obviously, look at the defense, know the defense, just go in and play your leverage.’ So I just think overall, for Marco to have a game like that is a big deal.”

The Cardinals evaluations of Wilson were much higher than where he landed in the draft.

General manager Steve Keim told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo this week that he had a lot of confidence in the former Florida corner.

Keim mentioned that Wilson continued to stack strong days of practice throughout the offseason, and that working with him in person this summer was a big deal.

“He did not disappoint,” Keim said. “He was physical, he was fast, he did a great job in coverage, he has very good anticipation skills, understands zone and man concepts. So, the things that he does as a rookie has been extremely exciting. He continues to grow through experience.”

Alford played his first regular-season game since 2018 last week.

He made the play in coverage that led to Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s pass getting tipped and intercepted by Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simons.

Murphy said that having Alford back onto the field was great to see, and that the veteran looked mentally right. The defense has a lot of younger players on it, so having Alford as someone with Super Bowl experience healthy and contributing adds a needed element.

That unit will have another challenge on Sunday against the Vikings. Minnesota has a pair of Pro Bowl receivers in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.

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