There was talk during the offseason about the Arizona Cardinals cornerback room and whether the team could add another body to the group.
Seven-year veteran Antonio Hamilton isn’t listening to the outside buzz surrounding the cornerback position.
“I don’t listen to any of that stuff,” Hamilton said. “We have the best faith and confidence in our group of guys that we have. We play in training camp. No interruptions or anything like that. We have been consistent and continue to grow with each other. I don’t know if people want a big name to hang their hat on, but we believe in the guys we have here.”
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged over the summer that the cornerback group could use some strengthening. Kingsbury also remained honest about cornerback Marco Wilson, saying in late July that “the jury is still out” on the sophomore quarterback.
Nothing is given in the corner.
This offseason, Arizona re-signed Hamilton, who played in 17 games and recorded 38 tackles and four passes defensed last season. The veteran also played 47 percent of the special teams snaps. He is entering his seventh season in the league and, barring a free agent addition, Hamilton is likely to take over the third cornerback spot.
Hamilton believes his performance last season speaks for itself.
“I believe and just look at the film for yourself and it shows that I made a big move every opportunity I got last year,” Hamilton said. “I’m just trying to keep this going and be consistent.”
Hamilton was listed as the No. 1 cornerback on the depth chart for the preseason opener last week. While Hamilton likely won’t be a No. 1 prospect in the regular season, it’s clear the Cardinals think highly of him.
However, Hamilton went through trials and tribulations during his career. He entered the NFL with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Before his career-high 29% on defense last year, his previous high on defense was 13% with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.
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The 29-year-old was signed to the Cardinals’ practice squad last September after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 53-man cut.
It hasn’t been easy for Hamilton to get to where he is now, but he’s ready for an even bigger opportunity in 2022.
“It was extremely difficult. I was a linebacker in college…I was the last corner on the depth chart. So I always had to fight to the end. I never received any handouts .. I deserved it all the way. And I will continue to do that until I can take care of my family in a way — I really want to retire my mom. I’ve been in the league for seven years and I haven’t gotten that opportunity yet. I’m just going to keep fighting,” Hamilton said.
Byron Murphy Jr., 24, and Wilson, 22, were the team’s starters last season. Wilson had his ups and downs during training camp.
Hamilton doesn’t mind competing and helping youngsters at the same time.
“I coach everybody,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been in this league for a while. I try my best to help every single person in this field. I’ve seen a lot of things and I’ve just tried to share my wisdom with these guys and just be as good a teammate as I can.”
Unlike last season, Hamilton has the benefit of being with the Cardinals at the start of training camp.
He said, “Having that advantage of learning the playbook from Day 1 all the way through training camp gives me an edge. (It’s) a great opportunity to go out there and just show my skills and show how consistent I am.”
Of the entire roster, cornerback is one of the most likely positions to add insurance and depth. Arizona could bring back former starter Robert Alford, who is still a free agent. They also worked out former first round pick Deandre Baker last week.
But for now, Hamilton will have to compete with Murphy, Wilson, Josh Jackson, rookie Christian Matthews, Jace Whittaker and Cortez Davis.
“(The Cardinals) know what I can do when it comes to special teams, and they also see and know what I can do on defense as well,” Hamilton said.