Christian Matthew, fellow Cardinals rookies ready to show their NFL worth

Sep 10, 2022, 9:01 AM
Arizona Cardinals CB Christian Matthew (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...
Arizona Cardinals CB Christian Matthew (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals made it a point to protect their starters and key contributors this offseason with limited training camp and preseason work.

But with a Week 1 matchup looming with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cardinals have multiple injuries on both sides of the ball to contend with.

Of the position groups that have been hit the hardest is the cornerback room.

In addition to Antonio Hamilton’s severe burns from a cooking accident that placed him on the non-football injury list and will sideline the cornerback for at least four games, Trayvon Mullen Jr. will have to wait at least another week to make his Cardinals debut with a toe injury stemming from last season.

Toss in the addition of starter Byron Murphy Jr. on the injury report, who is questionable with an illness, and the concern for this secondary grows even more.

Some call Kingsbury’s offseason methods soft. Others agree in keeping those who are going to dictate the outcome of the season out of harm’s way until the games count.

However you want to slice it, Kingsbury has been able to manufacture depth out of his plan, with backups and beyond seeing their fair share of reps this offseason.

Now, all that work a rookie like Christian Matthew put in matters and he’s being called upon in a pinch against one of the NFL’s most dangerous quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes.

“I’m just excited to prove myself and just be somebody that my teammates can rely on and somebody my coaches can rely on,” Matthew said Friday.

“It’s a blessing No. 1,” he added. “I just focus on my job and block out the noise. If I can just focus on my job, everything else will take care of itself.”

It’s been a whirlwind for Matthew, who entered the league as a seventh-rounder out of Valdosta State. He made a name for himself early on when he spoke about his aspirations of going 1-on-1 with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Right now, though, it’s all business, with Matthew coming in early and making sure he is more than comfortable with the game plan. His hard work is paying off, too, with head coach Kliff Kingsbury naming Matthew as the No. 3 cornerback entering Sunday.

“He’s … an older rookie and he approaches it that way,” the head coach said Friday.” Very mature in his approach, the way he studies, and he’s just gotten better and better.”

Not bad for a player who was seriously considering a managerial job at Walmart not that long ago.

Offensively, fellow rookies Trey McBride and Keaontay Ingram are taking that same approach.

Ingram has his work cut out for him with a quartet of solid running backs to compete with in the RB room. McBride, however, has a good chance at seeing his number called early on.

Veteran tight end Zach Ertz is officially questionable with a calf injury, leaving Maxx Williams and McBride as two potential candidates to see increased reps in Week 1.

Even if Ertz is given the green light, there’s a real chance Arizona plays it safe with the tight end and gives the duo more run.

And after a limited showing this preseason, McBride is eager to hit the ground running.

“I just want to prove I can play at this level, I can play in this league and to show everyone what I’m capable of doing,” McBride said Friday.

“Most importantly, just get out there and enjoy it with my teammates. That’s what it’s all about.”

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Christian Matthew, fellow Cardinals rookies ready to show their NFL worth