The Arizona Cardinals’ secondary started 2021 strong but faltered down the stretch. Will it be a strength in 2022?
Before a string of injuries across the secondary tested its depth, it looked like the position group would be one of the highlights of the 2021 Cardinals squad, with the core group of Robert Alford, Byron Murphy Jr., Marco Wilson, Budda Baker, and Jalen Thompson playing lights out defense.
Although there was a noticeable drop off in the quality of play, the Cardinals still finished the season 7th in passing yards allowed and 8th in passing touchdowns allowed. In fact, it can certainly be argued the group carried the entire defense through some abysmal performances against the run.
Out of last season’s core, four out of five are definitely returning, making 10-year vet Robert Alford the lone man out. He is not currently signed with the team but remains available.
The only free agent addition to the secondary was former Minnesota Viking CB Jeff Gladney, who tragically passed away in a motor vehicle accident in late May.
Christian Matthews was the only defensive back added by the Cardinals in the draft after being selected 244th overall in the 7th round. A product of Valdosta State University, Matthews is clearly intended as a depth/project player and should not be expected to start in 2022.
Better, Equal, or Worse?
As it stands right now, the secondary can only be judged without Robert Alford, who had a team-high 68.5 coverage grade from PFF in 2021 and was generally considered the best coverage corner on the team.
Since there have been no other additions to this group, it must be judged to be Worse.
There remains a good chance that Alford returns to Arizona, in which case the rating would likely rise to Equal. However, the valid question remains: is this lineup good enough to keep pace with NFC West?