Strong safety spot is a question mark for Arizona Cardinals

(Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images) Shawn Williams
(Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images) Shawn Williams /

A candidate for the Arizona Cardinals strong safety position will need to grab hold of the job during this summer’s training camp.

When members of the Arizona Cardinals get together next month for this year’s training camp, the defensive coaching staff will be looking for a starter at strong safety.

Arizona‘s free safety spot is all locked up, with three-time Pro Bowler, Budda Baker, ready to embark on another sensational season.

Finding someone to play next to Baker in the Cardinals’ secondary, however, will present a challenge for defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and his band of assistant coaches.

Several players will compete to be the Arizona Cardinals starting strong safety

Arizona general manager Steve Keim has assembled quite an assortment of defensive backs to compete for the open safety slot in the team’s secondary. It’s an impressive group that consists of both young and experienced players who would love nothing more than to be in the team’s starting lineup when opening day arrives in September.

Last season’s starter, Jalen Thompson, missed 11 games in 2020 with an ankle injury. The 5-foot-11,190-pounder joined Arizona’s roster two years ago when he was selected during the fifth round of the NFL’s Supplemental Draft.

Deionte Thompson is a 24-year-old who was a fifth-round selection of the Cards back in 2019. The former University of Alabama product finished with 27 tackles and three pass breakups in 13 appearances (four starts) for Arizona last season.

Chris Banjo is a ninth-year professional who, like Thompson, also made 13 appearances (four starts) for the Cardinals in 2020. The special teams ace was brought back to the nest on a one-year deal this past March.

Charles Washington is another safety who has made his bread and butter on the special teams unit. The 5-foot-10,192-pounder, who broke into the league with the Detroit Lions back in 2017, has zero starts on his pro resume.

Longtime Cincinnati Bengals employee Shawn Williams has logged 61 starts in eight NFL campaigns. The 6-foot, 212-pounder was reduced to a special teams wedge-buster last year in Cincinnati. But he could return to a familiar role as a starting safety for Arizona this coming fall.

One last candidate who’s in the strong safety mix is rookie James Wiggins. Many in the Cardinals organization feel that the seventh-round choice could be the steal of the team’s 2021 draft class.

At the moment, the competition for the squad’s strong safety position appears to be wide open. Jalen Thompson likely has the inside track to win the job, but he has to stay healthy.

Whoever emerges victorious will have the honor of playing next to Baker, the 25-year-old All-Pro who is on his way to superstardom. That alone makes Arizona’s vacancy incredibly attractive.

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We’re now just weeks away from what could be the Cardinals’ most competitive training camp in years. Strong safety is just one of several positions that will need to be settled. May the best defensive back win.