Cardinals GM Steve Keim finds comfort in defensive core despite holes

Sep 9, 2022, 3:44 PM
Budda Baker #3 and Jalen Thompson #34 of the Arizona Cardinals tackle Tyler Higbee #89 of the Los A...
Budda Baker #3 and Jalen Thompson #34 of the Arizona Cardinals tackle Tyler Higbee #89 of the Los Angeles Rams in the first half at SoFi Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Fans might point at the glaring issues, like at cornerback where the Arizona Cardinals enter Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs with perhaps their top two options sidelined.

Antonio Hamilton is on injured reserve after a freak cooking accident, and Byron Murphy popped up on the injury report Friday with an illness. He is questionable, while recently acquired backup Trayvon Mullen is out with a toe injury.

It leaves second-year pro Marco Wilson and sixth-round pick Christian Matthew on deck, with veteran pickup Javelin Guidry the third option currently on the active roster.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim admits that cornerback will be a position where his staff continues to search for outside help.

“You’re probably a little concerned about the depth there,” Keim told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Friday. “I think Byron Murphy and I think Ham and those guys, I think they’re going to be able to step up and be able to play well.

“It is a position we’re going to constantly look for guys who can come in here and help us.”

But on the defensive side of the ball, Keim feels expectations remain high.

Inside linebacker has youth in Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, where experience but not athleticism is a concern. Keim believes they are ready to contribute as starters.

They are also on reasonable rookie deals. Add those two first-round picks to the safety duo of Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson that arguably is one of the best in the NFL and under team control long-term, and Keim feels Arizona is in a sound spot looking down the road.

At outside linebacker, there are at least a good number of players who can contribute after the team lost Pro Bowler Chandler Jones in free agency.

After No. 1 pass-rusher Markus Golden on Friday signed an extension through 2023, that position has stability at least. Dennis Gardeck, 2021 draft pick Victor Dimukeje and rookies Myjai Sanders and Cam Thomas give the Cardinals plenty of other options.

“I think it’d be hard to say we replaced Chandler Jones, a guy who had that kind of sack production,” Keim said. “At the same time, we drafted a couple different players who I feel have a bright future. Dennis Gardeck and obviously Markus Golden, they have the ability to get after the quarterback. And Vance Joseph — I think Vance Joseph does a phenomenal job of scheming up our defense and putting us in a position to succeed.”

And at the end of the day, Keim’s confidence in Joseph’s creativity and his extension agreement with Thompson to pair at safety with Baker puts Arizona in a great spot heading into 2023.

“I think our defense is going to be really, really good,” Keim added. “When you have a secondary like we have in Budda and Jalen Thompson, who I think is the best natural tackler in space, we’re going to have a chance to be a good football team.”

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