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Cardinals look for backups to step up in place of injured Jalen Thompson

Jalen Thompson (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It only took two plays for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday to lose a key part of their defense, forcing the team into a next-man-up mentality for the foreseeable future.

Second-year Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury and will be on the shelf for at least three weeks.

Veteran Chris Banjo and Deionte Thompson will be relied upon with Jalen out, while the Cardinals also signed Curtis Riley off the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad on Thursday to provide additional depth.

Banjo in Sunday’s season-opening win against the San Francisco 49ers came in and recorded three solo tackles with three assisted tackles.

“He (Banjo) came in and we didn’t have a letdown, came in and communicated on point, moved around great, eyes were awesome, tackled well,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said in a Zoom call with the media on Thursday.

Jalen’s absence was made apparent early on, however, as Raheem Mostert caught a pass from 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and proceeded to streak up the field for a 76-yard touchdown.

That score was the difference for the majority of the game until the Cardinals took the lead in the fourth quarter.

“(Jalen Thompson’s) best trait is open-field tackling, so we have to get Banjo and (Deionte Thompson) to replace (Jalen Thompson),” Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said on Thursday in a Zoom call with the media.

“We cannot let the ball run through the middle of the defense … that’s high school football,” Joseph added. “That can’t happen in this league.”

Peterson thinks the team will be able to handle the loss of Thompson by committing and believing in the system.

“If we continue to do that it should never be a drop off because we have great guys on each and every level,” Peterson said.

Joseph, meanwhile, hopes to keep Thompson’s football IQ in top shape during the absence.

“He’s in meetings every day and hopefully we can keep him around and keep studying, keep watching tape with him,” Joseph said.

Thompson had 57 tackles, three passes defensed, an interception and a fumble recovery last season in 15 games last season including nine starts.


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