2014 Positional Analysis: Arizona Cardinals Safeties

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Deone Bucannon

Dec 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Deone Bucannon (36) forces a fumble on Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) in the fourth quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chiefs 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Stats: 73 total tackles| two sacks| two passes defensed|zero interceptions

I’ll be honest, when the Cardinals traded down to take a safety graded as a second or third round pick, I wasn’t thrilled. With several positional needs, and the fact that young QBs like Derek Carr were still on the board, the decision to take Bucannon puzzled me. I wasn’t sure what to expect from him.

In his rookie season, Bucannon was actually very impressive. He switched between safety and linebacker when the team needed it, and played both well. Since his time in college, he has been known as a big hitter. That translated well to pro level, so much so that he almost concussed both Jeremy Maclin and Patrick Peterson with one hit.

Bucannon needs to develop his coverage skills. With Bruce Arians saying he “is going to play safety” this season, he’ll be put in more positions that test his ability to grow and improve in that area. The potential for development is there, and Arizona needs someone to get better at that. Note that all three safeties mentioned are weaker in coverage.

He’s got work to do like any rookie, nut he vindicated the Cards’ decision to take him in round one. Whether he develops into a long-term impact player remains to be seen. He’s got the skill and attitude necessary to become a very good football player, though. 2015 will be a good test

Tyrann Mathieu

Nov 2, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) intercepts a pass in front of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) at AT&T Stadium. Arizona beat Dallas 28-17. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports


Stats: 38 total tackles| zero sacks| four passes defensed| one interception

The good news is that Tyrann Mathieu has proven a commitment to put his college issues behind him and succeed in the NFL. The bad news is that this season didn’t turn out the way everyone wanted. After a great rookie season, the ACL injury Mathieu suffered late in 2013 inhibited him last year.

That’s not to say Mathieu is really at fault. He’s openly discussed that his issue is regaining trust in his body. For a freak athlete that operates on instinct, trust in the well being of your most important physical tool, your legs, is critical.

On the plus side, Mathieu seemed to be getting his groove back after several games back. Then a thumb injury sidelined him for a couple of weeks and he ended on a quiet note. He did show that what made him so good is more lost than it is gone. There’s no reason to believe he can’t find it again.

It would be dishonest to say that the Honey Badger was not disappointing this season. However, it’s also pessimistic to say he can’t return to form. A full offseason of work without rehab should help him. With any luck, he’ll be back to making great plays consistently next season.


The safety group is young, athletic, and hits hard. It was an effective defensive asset for Arizona last season. To get to the next level, this young corp needs to grow in its coverage skills. The position is deep and talented, and the Cardinals should be happy knowing that this area of the filed is well manned.