ARIZONA CARDINALS

ESPN: Tyrann Mathieu has most to prove for the Cardinals

May 30, 2017, 12:10 PM

DB Tyrann Mathieu goes through a drill during an OTA practice May 16. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona ...

DB Tyrann Mathieu goes through a drill during an OTA practice May 16. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

After missing the 2015 postseason with an ACL tear and missing six games last season with a shoulder injury, Cardinals’ DB Tyrann Mathieu has not been able to stay on the field in his young NFL career.

This is why Josh Weinfuss of ESPN puts Mathieu as the Cardinal with the most to prove in 2017.

There’s no questioning Mathieu’s ability; it’s his health that’s a concern. If Mathieu stays healthy, he’s one of the top defenders in the NFL. But lately that has been a big if. He has finished three of his four seasons on injured reserve, including twice because of major knee injuries. He needs to stay healthy in 2017 to prove that he isn’t injury-prone — and to reward the Cardinals for investing big dollars in his extension.

In his four NFL seasons, Mathieu’s success has been shadowed by his injuries — flashing his potential in spurts before being sidelined — most noticeably in his most successful season, 2015.

In that season, he set career highs in games (14), tackles (80), interceptions (5) and passes defended (17).

His All-Pro 2015 campaign earned him a five-year $62.5 million contract — another reason, as Weinfuss points out, that Mathieu needs to prove himself in 2017.

The Cardinals can’t get out of his contact until 2020, and a bounce back season from Mathieu would be a reward for the Cardinals’ 2016 extension they gave him.

When he’s at his best, the “honey badger” lives up to his nickname, flying around the field and making plays. Mathieu said he is stronger and faster than he’s ever been, which is why he could stay healthy for the entirety of the 2017 season.

“I just have to take really good care of it,” Mathieu told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM in March. “But I also have to be conscious and understand how my body works.”

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