Arizona Cardinals: Defensive backfield an bright spot


The 2016 season has been disappointing for the Arizona Cardinals but they’ve gotten solid production out of their secondary

When the Arizona Cardinals secondary is brought up in conversation, the first player usually mentioned would be Patrick Peterson. And rightfully so. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler, a shut-down cornerback who regularly blanks top NFL wide receivers.

In an underachieving year for Arizona, Peterson has once again been excellent. He’s most likely heading to yet another Pro Bowl. And he hasn’t been the only bright spot in the Cardinals’ secondary.

Tony Jefferson is not a household name among NFL fans, but Cards’ fans are well aware of his prowess. The fourth-year safety is currently Arizona’s second-leading tackler with 73 stops (Deone Bucannon is first with 79). He has also contributed two sacks and two passes defensed this season, his best campaign since entering the league.

Safety D.J. Swearinger has also been productive. He’s done a little of everything, tallying 42 tackles, a sack, three picks and seven passes defensed. He did drop a crucial interception against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, but that happens to the best of them.

If Peterson is the first Cards’ defensive back mentioned in conversation, then Tyrann Mathieu is probably the second. The “Honey Badger” proved how elite his play can be last season and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. His 2015 season ended prematurely however, when he suffered the second major knee injury of his NFL career in December.

He returned quickly from that injury, quick enough that he was able to play in this year’s opener. His play has been mediocre at best, leading some to speculate that he was rushed back too soon. He then suffered a shoulder injury in week eight, but returned from that last Sunday in Atlanta.

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Marcus Cooper’s play has trailed off lately, but he’s been a pleasant surprise overall. Acquired via a trade, the cornerback has amassed 52 tackles, three interceptions (one a pick-six) and seven passes defensed. He has filled the starting corner position opposite Peterson adequately, addressing a major offseason hole.

Free agent addition Tyvon Branch was playing well before being placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. He’ll return to the field this Sunday. Seattle Seahawks castoff Tharold Simon has also contributed in a limited role.

The Cardinals overall defense ranks first in the NFL at the current time. They rank second only to the Denver Broncos in pass defense. Both clubs have allowed less than 200 yards per game through the air, an impressive statistic.

In a season such as this, fans need to find as many silver linings as possible. The secondary of the Cardinals certainly qualifies. And that’s a good thing.