Bene Benwikere and the quest for redemption in Arizona

The man in black, Johnny Cash, once said, "You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Bene Benwikere is quite familiar with those sentiments. From the highs of getting drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft, and playing 13 games in 2015 as the Panthers marched to a Super Bowl appearance, to the lows of a Sunday afternoon in Week 4 of the 2016 NFL season, he has needed that resilience.

When the Panthers took to the Georgia Dome field for their divisional match-up against the Atlanta Falcons on the first Sunday in October of 2016, no one could have predicted the disorder which would befall the normally organized and efficient Panthers defense.

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones torched the Panthers for 12 receptions, 300 yards, and a touchdown in the game. Benwikere, at that point in his third season in the league, allowed five of those receptions, but with those going for a total of 174 yards and a 75-yard touchdown, culpability was firmly placed at the feet of the cornerback.

Despite obvious mistakes elsewhere, notably the lack of safety help in providing additional coverage against the All-Pro receiver, Nigerian-American Benwikere was released from the team a few days later.

Fast forward two years. Benwikere bounced from Miami Dolphins to Green Bay Packers to Cincinnati Bengals (no regular season games at those three teams) and then Dallas Cowboys prior to the start of the 2017 season, where he played in 12 games on special teams, before being traded to the Cardinals in March this year.

But the 27-year old is getting his career back on track in Arizona. With the need for more depth at the cornerback position, Benwikere's versatility was a major drawcard, and the San Jose State Spartan has reunited with Cardinals head coach [and his former defensive backs coach in Carolina] Steve Wilks.

When asked about Benwikere signing with the Cardinals ahead of the 2018 season, Wilks told the media: "I understand his core DNA. He ran into a rough spot [in Carolina] and he put that behind him. Second chances mean a lot to a lot of people. I recognize Bene's potential."

Benwikere is well-positioned to share the lessons learned from the past few years, while helping his new teammates get accustomed to the demands and playbook of their new coaches. He'll need to do it quickly, though, as the Cards are 0-3 on the season so far.

"It's been great and a blessing to just be here and be able to be a part of something that's already really good," Benwikere tells KweséESPN.

"They have a bunch of good guys and it's just been fun to be out here and be able to help and give them my all, really."

Looking back at his NFL journey over the past two seasons, Benwikere speaks about the turning point, when with the Bengals, that led to a change in his sense of urgency, professionalism and dedication to the sport.

"I think it really was just before I got to the Cowboys. Right before I got to the Cowboys I was with Cincinnati in their training camp and I was just grinding and a lot of those guys were really good," he says.

"Adam 'Pacman' Jones is just a guy that was really sound on his technique and just playing up to ability, and also William Jackson III. They liked to make plays and were just really good in their coverage and techniques. It got me to hone in on mine a little bit more.

"Before I even got to the Panthers I kinda was corner, nickel, safety, did a lot of things, so I never really honed in on a specific skill position.

"When I got to the Panthers it was like, 'Okay he's a nickel but he's a corner so he's still going back and forth with a bunch of techniques and different ways to play things'. Finally, when I got to Cincinnati, it was just corner."

Benwikere admits that his preferred position is indeed cornerback: "I feel like I make a lot of plays when I'm there. A lot of the turnovers that I do get, even dating back to college, have always been at corner. Picks, fumbles, everything."

Following a performance last Sunday in which he shared a sack against Chicago and had a pass breakup, Benwikere is making his case to be the starter across from All-Pro Cornerback and Cardinals defensive mainstay Patrick Peterson, as they gear up for a game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Peterson, who has starred at the position over the past eight seasons for the Cardinals, tells KweséESPN of Benwikere's contributions: "Having him in the secondary in our room has been great for us.

"Obviously he has played in the defense, he knows the ins and outs and he's been a tremendous help for Budda [Baker] and also for a lot of guys in the secondary as well.

"[Bene helps with] understanding calls and kind of getting a feel for how [Defensive co-ordinator Al Holcomb] wants to call certain things and certain techniques.

"He's been nothing but great for us and hopefully he can continue making plays for the defense and also help us continue to grow into the system as well."

Speaking about former Panthers coach Holcomb and his familiarity with him, Benwikere adds: "I used to watch film with [Panthers linebackers] Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis all the time, so I kinda know what Al sees as well, because I was steady in the film room with them when I was there."

If Benwikere can provide a modicum of consistency with Peterson in the Cardinals secondary, fans and coaches will appreciate the connections with Wilks and Holcomb that took Benwikere from somewhat undeserved ignominy in Carolina to redemption in Arizona.