There has been talk during the offseason about the Arizona Cardinals’ running back room and whether the team could add another body to the lineup.
Seven-year veteran Antonio Hamilton doesn’t listen to the outside noise surrounding the cornerback position.
“I don’t hear any of that stuff,” Hamilton said. “We have ultimate confidence and trust in our group of guys that we have. We’ve been playing in training camp. No broken coverage or anything like that. We’ve 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.”
Coach Kliff Kingsbury has acknowledged all summer that the cornerback group could use reinforcements. Kingsbury has also remained honest about cornerback Marco Wilson, as he said in late July that “the jury is still out” on the second-year cornerback.
Nothing is given in the back corner unit.
This offseason, Arizona re-signed Hamilton, who played in 17 games and posted 38 tackles and four passes defensed last season. The veteran also played 47% of the snaps on special teams. He is entering his seventh season in the league and it is likely, barring a free agent, that Hamilton will take the third corner spot.
Hamilton believes his work from last season speaks for itself.
“I believe and just check the film for yourself and it shows that I stepped up in a big way every opportunity I had last year,” Hamilton said. “I’m just trying to take it further and be consistent.”
Hamilton was listed as the No. 1 cornerback on the depth chart for the preseason opener last week. While it is likely that ranking no. 1 for Hamilton is not the case in the regular season, it is clear that he is highly thought of by the Cardinals.
However, Hamilton has gone through trials and tribulations throughout his career. He entered the NFL with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Before a career-high 29% defensive snaps last year, his previous defensive snap rate 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’s been extremely difficult. I was a freshman in college … I was the last corner on the depth chart. So I always had to fight to the end. I never had any handouts … I have won over and over again. And I’ll keep doing it until I’m able to take care of my family in some way – I really want to retire my mom. I’ve been in the League for seven years and I haven’t gotten that yet opportunity. I’m just going to keep fighting,” Hamilton said.
24-year-old Byron Murphy Jr. and 22-year-old Wilson were the team’s starters last season. Wilson has had his ups and downs during training camp.
Hamilton has no problem competing and helping young people at the same time.
“I mentor everybody,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been in this league for a while. I try to do my best to help each and every person out there on that field. I’ve seen a lot of things and I just try to share my wisdom with those guys and just be a teammate as good 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 through training camp gives me an edge. (It’s) a great opportunity to go out there and just showcase my skills and show how durable I am.”
Of the entire roster, cornerback is one of the most likely positions to add insurance and depth. Arizona could bring back former football player 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 be able to compete with Murphy, Wilson, Josh Jackson, rookie Christian Matthew, 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.