Arizona Cardinals safeties excel while star recovers

The Arizona Cardinals have gotten stellar play from their safety group as Tyrann Mathieu struggles to regain his pre-injury form

When asked a couple weeks ago about Tyrann Mathieu’s regular season availability, Arizona Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians responded swiftly. It was actually the week of the season opener and he insinuated that the “Honey Badger” would have no restrictions. That he was well ahead of schedule in his recovery from the torn ACL he suffered last December.

Through the first two games of this season he has failed to impress with his play. He appears tentative, perhaps fearful of pushing too hard and re-injuring the knee.

In the meantime, fellow safeties Tony Jefferson and Tyvon Branch have been balling at a high level. They’ve more than picked up the slack for the recovering Mathieu. D.J. Swearinger and rookie Marqui Christian round out what may be the deepest position on the team.

Jefferson is in a contract year and appears to be on a mission to prove his worth to the NFL. He leads all Cards’ defenders with 21 tackles and is making plays all over the field. He received lukewarm interest as a restricted free agent, but the Cardinals were smart enough to keep him around.

New addition Tyvon Branch has been as good as advertised. Like Jefferson, he’s also been a tackling machine, amassing 17 tackles in two games. Besides his play against the run he’s also been solid in pass coverage.

It’s not that Mathieu has been invisible, he does have nine tackles to his credit. But the fire that lifted the team last season has yet to surface.

After Mathieu was lost last season it seemed like the air went out of the Arizona defense. He does so many different things, and as good as his replacements have performed he’s hard to replace.

Mathieu will know when it’s OK to “turn it loose”. The confidence will return, the fear of hurting

the knee again will go away. And that will be a joyous day for the Cards and their fans.

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