Rookie could be starting at cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals defense

The fact that Kei'Trel Clark didn't dress in the preseason finale could indicate that the young corner will be an Arizona Cardinals starter.
NFL Combine
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All throughout the offseason, the Arizona Cardinals have been on the lookout for a starting cornerback. Number-one cover guy Byron Murphy Jr., a four-year pro, left to sign a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings. It now appears that the Cards may have found a replacement, and the potential winner of the search could be considered somewhat surprising.

This past Saturday, sixth-round draft pick Kei'Trel Clark didn't dress during Arizona's preseason finale against the Vikings. That would seem to bode well for the first-year professional, who was likely kept out of the game because of his importance to the team. In fact, there are indications that Clark could form a starting duo at corner for the Redbirds with third-year youngster Marco Wilson.

Who could've believed that the Cardinals would find a starting-caliber cornerback on the draft's third day? Clark, a 5 foot 10,180 pounder, was fantastic during his three campaigns at the University of Louisville. In 31 appearances, the 180th-overall choice totaled 127 tackles, five interceptions and a whopping 23 passes defensed for the school.

Arizona Cardinals may have found a starting cover guy with the draft's 180th-overall selection

Back in May, Clark made headlines when he missed a rookie minicamp. First-year head coach Jonathan Gannon made good on his promise to allow the Virginia native to attend his graduation on the Louisville campus. Clark was excused from Arizona's three days of practice, and became the first in his family to earn a college degree.

Cards general manager Monti Ossenfort virtually ignored the cornerback position during last spring's free-agent signing period. Jamel Dean, James Bradberry, Cameron Sutton and Jonathan Jones were a few of the more attractive options who could've been obtained. Ossenfort did elect to re-sign Antonio Hamilton Sr., a 30-year old cover guy who logged five starts for Arizona last fall.

Prior to Clark's emergence, the consensus was that Hamilton would start opposite Wilson this coming season. Obviously, anything can still happen at the spot. But for now, the Cardinals seem to be more than willing to roll with the 22-year-old Clark as a starting cornerback in 2023.


(Statistics provided by College Football Reference)