In the grand scheme, it doesn’t mean a ton, because playing time is what it is — Bruce Arians said again Monday “We have so many starters, it’s not just the 11 that come out of the huddle,” meaning that a key part of a sub-package is still a starter in his eyes — but rookie Tyrann Mathieu was officially moved up the depth chart at free safety this week to starter. It’s not like it came out of nowhere, since Mathieu started and then played almost every snap against Atlanta over veteran Rashad Johnson and both Mathieu and Johnson already acknowledged the shift. This is less about Johnson, whom Arians continues to praise not only for his play but his leadership, and more about the burgeoning stardom of Mathieu.
Mathieu has been impressive to say the least. He was named the NFL defensive rookie of the month for October. He has been a playmaker. He is (in my opinion, at least, and in many others) the best tackler this team has, which was one of those areas of concern given his size. Johnson is still going to get plenty of playing time, with Mathieu probably moving around and inside in sub-packages (which the Cards are in more than base defense most games anyway) and Johnson playing safety.
“From an ability standpoint we knew what we were getting,” General Manager Steve Keim said. “It was up to Tyrann to make a commitment to his personal life and to come to work every day, compete, grow and get better. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the young man with that so far. Again, that’s a day-to-day thing. We count on him to come in and get better, and once he can achieve that … the first day he is here, he is able to move on to the second day, and that’s all we can ask for in the future.”
No, he’s not on the Pro Bowl ballot — time for a write-in campaign? — but Mathieu is playing like a first-round pick. Which he probably would have been without his off-field baggage. And now, he’s the starter. Probably for good.
Tags: Rashad Johnson, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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