The Arizona Cardinals used their first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on 215-pound safety Deone Bucannon in part because of the imposing physical presence he brings to the secondary.
But Bucannon has occasionally drawn the ire of head coach Bruce Arians during training camp for making hits that are likely to get him penalized during real games.
It’s a habit that Bucannon knows he needs to cut out if he’s going to win a starting job heading into the regular season.
“Honestly, that’s something I have to learn,” he said Wednesday on the Bickley and Marotta show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It’s different. It’s different than college. There’s different rules, things you’ve got to abide by…
“I’ve got to understand who I’ve got to hit the right way, the proper way, to affect my team in a positive way, and that’s my goal, and I want to be a positive influence on the team every single day. I wouldn’t want to hurt my team in any way.”
Bucannon, the 27th overall pick, was a first-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 member in 2013. His six interceptions last season were tied for the most in the conference.
But Bucannon is perhaps best known for his physicality. At Washington State, he developed a reputation for being one of the hardest-hitting safeties in college football.
Bucannon said he recognizes that forcing turnovers are more beneficial to the team than big hits — but hitting is still one of his favorite parts of the game.
“I feel like it just fires everybody up,” he said. “It establishes that we’re more physical than the other team, top to bottom… We’re more physical than you, no matter what day it is, no matter what time it is. That’s how I feel when somebody (on my team) makes a big hit, even if it’s not me.”
With the guidance of Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who he called “the best defensive mind” he’s ever played for, Bucannon said he, along with cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie and safety Tyrann Mathieu can “without a doubt” be the best secondary in the NFL.
But in order for him to earn a spot on the first-team defense ahead of undrafted second-year safety Tony Jefferson, who has had an impressive training camp, Bucannon knows he has to become the kind of disciplined player that Arians and Bowles want him to become.
“That’s the biggest thing: If I want to get on the field, if I want to be an effective player, I have to understand that,” he said. “I have to get out there, understand my assignments, hit the right gaps, fill the right gaps for whoever to make the play, or maybe for me to make the play.”