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Pro Football Focus: Cardinals secondary ranked No. 9 in the NFL

Arizona Cardinals defensive back D.J. Swearinger (36) celebrates his interception against the New York Jets with teammate atrick Peterson (21) as New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson (11) looks on during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The departures of cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Rashad Johnson during the offseason could been an excuse for the Arizona Cardinals’ secondary to take a step back in 2016.

Maybe Tyrann Mathieu’s recovery from his ACL surgery caused the production to sag as well.

Still, the Cardinals defensive back unit wasn’t too shabby during the team’s 7-8-1 season. Pro Football Focus ranked the secondary No. 9 in the NFL.

Indeed, Mathieu’s injury struggles didn’t help matters, and neither did what PFF said was a slight dip from cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Production from safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger made up for that, at least a little bit.

Patrick Peterson had another good year, although not quite to the level he performed in 2015. Still, his 14.0 coverage snaps per reception allowed was third-most for cornerbacks this season. Safety Tony Jefferson was one of the best run-defending safeties in the league, and led the position with a 7.8 run-stop percentage. At the other safety spot, D.J. Swearinger’s turnaround has been quietly impressive, considering where he was at a couple years ago (cut after just two seasons after being drafted in the second round).

Jefferson, in a contract year, piled up 96 tackles, two forced fumbles and five passes defensed. Per PFF, he had the Cardinals secondary’s best overall grade and was the No. 2 run defender among defensive backs in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Swearinger resurrected his career and posted the seventh-best coverage grade in the league.

The second-round pick in 2013 played in 16 games in each of his first two seasons with the Texans but appeared sparingly in 2015 with Tampa Bay and then Arizona. This year, he played in every game for the Cardinals to record 66 tackles with three interceptions and eight passes defensed.

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