Arizona Cardinals: Top Five Defensive Backs in History

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A look at the top five defensive backs in Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals history

Unlike the list of top five tight ends, trying to find the best five defensive backs, which include corners and safeties, since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988, proved to be a little more difficult.  There was no doubt who number one was but numbers two through five can easily be debated.

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The Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals have had some very good players come through their defensive backfield since the move to the desert 27 years ago.  A number of players could be discussed to be included in the top five that I did not include.  I trust most will agree with number one but after that I believe it’s fair game.

The Cardinals very well may be looking to add to their current group of defensive backs in the 2015 NFL Draft.  They just lost Antonio Cromartie and need to add depth to maintain the consistency of play the Cardinals have seen from their corners and safeties over the past two seasons.

1. Aeneas Williams

How could he not be number one?  He is the first Cardinal to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame that started his career in the NFL after the team moved to Arizona.  His numbers speak for themselves.

He had 46 interceptions for 653 yards and six touchdowns in his 10 seasons in Arizona.  He went on and had four more really good seasons for the St. Louis Rams before retiring after the 2004 season.

He was a third round draft pick in 1991 out of Southern.  Not much was known about him before the draft but he is arguably the best overall player in Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals history.

Not only was he a great player but an even better person.  He’s a great interview.  When I interviewed him several years ago when he was in Arizona to go into the Cardinals Ring of Honor, he was more interested in what I did and how I got into sports writing than talking about all of his accolades.  He is also the pastor of his own church in Missouri.

Best season as a Cardinal: In 1994, Williams had nine interceptions and one fumble recovery.

Best game as a Cardinal: On October 16th, 1994, Williams had two interceptions for 43 yards in a 19-16 victory over the Washington Redskins

2. Tim McDonald

The defensive back was drafted in 1987 in the second round out of USC.  So he was with the franchise one season before they moved to Arizona.  It was his time here as a Phoenix Cardinals DB though where his name became known.

He had 20 interceptions and one touchdown in his five seasons in the desert.  He also had six forced fumbles.  After the 1992 season however he left for the San Francisco 49ers to play out his last seven seasons in the NFL.

Best season as a Cardinal: In 1989, McDonald had seven interceptions for 170 yards and a touchdown.

Best game as a Cardinal: On November 12, 1989 McDonald had two interceptions, including one returned 53 yards for a touchdown in a  24-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

3. Patrick Peterson

Peterson, drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of LSU, has had an up and down career so far in his first four seasons in Arizona.  2014 was a bit of a down year for Peterson as he fought an illness that was not disclosed until this past week.  He did have his first interception return for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams this past November.

Peterson spent the first three seasons doubling as a punt returner and a cornerback.  He had four punt returns for touchdowns in his rookie season of 2011.  However it wasn’t until 2012 when he really started making noise at the corner.

Even through his tough 2014 he still had some really great games.  He was able to shut down Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant back in October.  Then the game against the Rams a couple weeks later he had two of his three interceptions on the season.

Best season as a Cardinal: In 2012, Peterson had seven interceptions

Best game as a Cardinal: As a cornerback his best game was the November 9, 2014 31-14 victory over the Rams.  He had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to break open a close game.