Tony Jefferson said he normally gets nervous before games. For some reason, he didn’t feel that way Sunday in Seattle. Forget about the part that he was making his first NFL start, or that it was coming in a hard place to play against arguably the best team in the NFL. And it’s not like defensive coordinator Todd Bowles took it easy on Jefferson, playing the undrafted rookie all 52 defensive snaps.
It’s not like the Cards had much of a choice, given the season-ending knee injury to starting safety Tyrann Mathieu and the bad ankle sprain of backup Rashad Johnson. But Jefferson had a solid game (one that could have been even more exciting had the rules not said a missed field goal is dead once the ball hits the upright, since Jefferson grabbed it on the fly and went to return it.) More importantly, it could have given the Cardinals a little breathing room going into the offseason at the position.
Johnson, who could be ready to play this week, will be back next year. But Bell is older and a free agent, and there will remain a big unknown of how long Mathieu will be out rehabbing his torn ACL/LCL. If Jefferson can work out long term, even as just depth, speaks again to the job GM Steve Keim has done building the roster. “I did (like what I saw),” Bowles said of Jefferson. “He’s a tough tackler. He has some things to learn mentally and needs to be a little more vocal, but as far as a straight football player, he was pretty good last week.”
Said Jefferson, “I was just ready to get out there and hit somebody.”
With Mathieu’s rehab, Keim’s approach to the offseason in terms of safety will be altered from what it would have been. But to have Jefferson hold up against the Seahawks gives the Cardinals more options than they might have had.
Tags: Rashad Johnson, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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