Rookie Garrett Williams could be starting for the Arizona Cardinals in no time

The cornerback's return to the practice field could be just the first step in his quest to be a starter for the Arizona Cardinals in 2023.
NC State v Syracuse
NC State v Syracuse / Bryan Bennett/GettyImages

It was quite a surprise when Kei'Trel Clark became a rookie starter at cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals. Is the "Red Sea" ready for another one?

The Cards got some good news this week when first-year pro Garrett Williams returned to the practice field. The 5 foot 10,192 pounder has been working his way back since October of 2022, when he suffered a torn ACL while playing for Syracuse University. Undeterred by the youngster's setback, Arizona general manager Monti Ossenfort used a third-round draft pick on Williams just six months later.

Williams' return to the squad comes at a fantastic time. This past Sunday, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk had his way with the Cardinals secondary. The 6 foot, 200 pound pass-catcher hauled in all six of his targets for an unacceptable 148 receiving yards.

Surprisingly, the 22-year-old Clark has not been the main culprit when it comes to the problems that the Redbirds are having in coverage. Marco Wilson, a fourth-round choice of the Cards a couple of years back, has failed to live up to expectations. It would seem that the team wouldn't have a whole lot to lose by allowing Williams to take Wilson's place in the starting lineup.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson has been targeted by opposing passers 26 times, and has allowed an alarming 21 receptions. The well-respected website has come up with a downright ugly 50.7 grade for the 24-year-old through four weeks. In light of Wilson's disappointing performance thus far, Arizona's coaching staff has to be wondering if a highly-touted cover guy like Williams can do better.

Arizona Cardinals have to be impressed with Garrett Williams' college resume

The 22-year-old Williams was absolutely outstanding for the Orange during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Back in '20, the North Carolina native totaled 64 tackles, nine passes defensed, and two picks in 11 appearances for Syracuse. One of the interceptions occurred against Clemson University, when Williams turned an errant Trevor Lawrence pass into a 39-yard pick-six.

Williams would go on to rack up 52 tackles and nine pass breakups in 10 contests for the Orange defensive unit in '21. A year later, in 2022, the 72nd-overall choice of this past April's NFL Draft made the most out of his injury-shortened campaign. Williams was credited with 35 tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups in the seven matchups he suited up for last fall.

A heathy Williams should have an opportunity to show what he can do during the final 13 matchups of the schedule. Wilson, thanks to his substandard play, has left the door open for the rookie corner. It's now time for the Cardinals to see if Williams can step right in and claim the starting position.


(Statistics provided by, College Football Reference, and PFF [subscription])