For the past two seasons, the unheralded safety has been one of the most underappreciated members of the Arizona Cardinals defensive unit.
When Jonathan Gannon was named the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, the defensive guru inherited one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. Most professional football fans are well aware of Budda Baker, but his partner on the back end of the Cards secondary is far from a household name.
At some point in time, Jalen Thompson is going to be recognized as one of of the league's most productive defenders. Over the past two seasons, the 5 foot 11,190 pounder has put up the type of numbers that should've earned him Pro Bowl recognition. Unfortunately, that honor has yet to be bestowed upon the hard-hitting Thompson.
Last fall, Thompson totaled 110 tackles, an interception, and eight passes defensed in 17 starts for Arizona. The former Washington State University product was even more impressive for the squad back in 2021. In 17 appearances (12 starts) that year, Thompson racked up 121 tackles, three picks and seven pass breakups for the Redbirds defensive unit.
Working against Thompson is the fact that Baker is such an exciting performer. When Cardinals games are nationally-televised, the announcers go out of their way to praise the dynamic Baker. Thompson, on the other hand, garners very little attention.
Jalen Thompson has been a pleasant surprise since he joined the Arizona Cardinals
The Cards organization showed their appreciation for Thompson last year when they signed him to a contract extension. The new deal will pay the 24-year-old $36 million, and will run through the 2025 campaign.
Thompson arrived in Arizona back in 2019 as a supplemental draft selection of the club. The fifth-round choice saw action as a rookie, logging nine starts in the 15 matchups he appeared in for the team. Thompson more than held his own, registering 57 tackles, an interception, and three passes defensed during his first year as a pro.
The following year, Thompson suited up in just five contests (four starts) during his sophomore campaign. A nagging ankle injury cost the California native 11 games, and he finished the season with 19 tackles and one pass breakup.
Gannon surely has his own thoughts about what the Cardinals defense will look like in 2023. Rest assured, the new coach is thanking his lucky stars that Thompson will be a part of the plan.
(Statistics provided by Pro Football Reference)