As a 15-year veteran, Johnathan Joseph has personally witnessed the ever-increasing reliance on cornerbacks in the NFL.
The 36-year-old was signed to be the Cardinals' fourth cornerback in mid-November, which used to mean a spot on the bench unless someone got hurt. But in the pass-happy nature of the present-day NFL, even dime cornerbacks can have a regular role depending on the opponent.
"If you look at my first game here with the Cardinals (against the Bills), I can sum it up that way," Joseph said. "I was the fourth cornerback and I probably got around 15 snaps in that game, maybe. (Actually 22). When I first got drafted in 2006 (by the Bengals), I was the nickelback. If you were a nickelback back then, you were only getting about 15-to-20 snaps as a third corner in a full game. Nowadays, if you're the nickelback, on most teams you're considered the starter because you're playing 85 to 90% of the game."
Cornerback depth is one of the most important facets on defense, because a weak link can easily be exposed by opposing quarterbacks. The Cardinals felt it against the Dolphins, when starters Byron Murphy Jr. and Dre Kirkpatrick were out.
After cycling through several other options, General Manager Steve Keim seems to have found a dependable reserve in Joseph, who was released by the Titans after Week 8.
In 40 snaps over three games, Joseph has only allowed one catch for one yard on three targets, according to Pro Football Focus. He also made a nice tackle on a 3rd-and-3 jet sweep by the Patriots near the goal-line on Sunday, forcing a fourth down.
"He has such wisdom, and he's played at a high level for so long," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "You saw the impact he had in the game. When he's in there, he tends to make plays. That was a great addition."
While Murphy, Kirkpatrick and Patrick Peterson are the starters on defense, Kingsbury appreciates the depth Joseph provides in the secondary.
"It's more of an '11' personnel game these days, so you've got to be able to cover three really good players each and every play," Kingsbury said. "You can never have enough good corners out there, that's for sure."
KINGSBURY UNSURE ON LARRY FITZGERALD'S AVAILABILITY AGAINST RAMS
Wide receiver Trent Sherfield returned to practice on Wednesday, and safety Deionte Thompson is expected to clear the COVID-19 protocols soon.
However, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald remains on the COVID-19 reserve list, and Kingsbury is unsure if he will clear the protocols in time to play against the Rams in Week 13. Fitzgerald didn't play in Sunday's loss to the Patriots, his first missed game since 2014.
The Cardinals who didn't practice on Wednesday were guard Justin Pugh (ankle), safety Jalen Thompson (ankle), safety Charles Washington (groin) and wideout DeAndre Hopkins (not injury-related). Those limited were Joseph (ankle/knee), quarterback Kyler Murray (shoulder), defensive end Zach Allen (ankle), tight end Dan Arnold (knee), defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence (calf) and linebacker Tanner Vallejo (concussion).
For the Rams, linebacker Terrell Lewis (knee) and defensive tackle Aaron Donald (not injury-related) did not practice. Offensive lineman Brian Allen (knee), and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (hip) were limited.
TOY DRIVE TO BE HELD SATURDAY
The Cardinals and Desert Financial Credit Union will host a contactless drive-through toy drive on Saturday, Dec. 5 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the West Preferred parking lot at State Farm Stadium. There will also be a toy drive at the Tempe Sports Complex (8403 S. Hardy Dr., Tempe) at the same time.
Masked volunteers will collect and sanitize the new unwrapped toys and donations, with all contributions benefiting "Helping Hands For Freedom," a group serving families or military and first responders.
Participants can enter to win items autographed by Fitzgerald, Peterson, safety Budda Baker and running back Kenyan Drake.