Cardinals S Jalen Thompson getting crack at quarterbacking the defense
GLENDALE — Arizona Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson’s growth has been evident since joining the franchise as a 2019 supplemental draft pick.
From being a player under the radar his rookie season to putting up a team-leading 121 tackles this past year, Thompson has proven he belongs in the NFL ranks.
And much like his first three seasons as a pro, Thompson is once again expanding his role.
Thanks to the trust and confidence he’s picked up from his work ethic and overall play on the field, the safety is among a group of players rocking the green dot this offseason.
“They’ve given me a lot of different things to handle,” Thompson said Wednesday. “I have my mic in my helmet now so I’m calling out some of the plays. It’s big time for me because I feel like I can handle it. It’s just one of those things where coaches are trusting me and I’m trusting them.
“I feel like if I’m calling it, I can get it out to the DBs quicker,” Thompson added. “That’s just one of the biggest things is getting aligned quickly and getting ready to play, so with that in my helmet, I feel like everybody’s moving around quickly and getting lined up quicker.”
For Thompson, having the microphone in his helmet was something that was foreign to him before this past spring. But over the course of team workouts, the safety was integrated into the mix.
And while Thompson’s acknowledged the team is still testing things out on who exactly will sport the green dot, the safety is planning as if he’ll be quarterbacking the defense come Week 1.
Traditionally on defense, the middle linebacker is the likely candidate to relay plays from the defensive coordinator. There are instances where this isn’t the case, but for the most part, a linebacker is typically getting the unit.
Thompson even referenced the rarity of a safety in that role.
And according to the NFL, only one player on offense and defense can have a working microphone on a given play.
Which begs the obvious question: Where does that leave MIKE backer Zaven Collins when it comes to calling the plays?
“We have multiple guys that can do it,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday. “That’s what’s good about having a guy like Budda, having a guy like (Thompson) back there that have been in the system this long. We’ll see how that plays out but I’d say there’s four or five guys that we feel comfortable calling it.”
Since Collins entered the league last season, Arizona has been keen on getting him into the starting MIKE backer role.
Instead, veteran ILB Jordan Hicks commanded the role Collins was supposed to, with the latter left to pick up special-teams scraps for the most part.
But with Hicks now in Minnesota, Collins seemingly had a clear path of securing the starting MIKE backer position and all the intricacies — like getting the defense set — that come with it.
For something that seemed so clear-cut, there is certainly something going on in the middle of the defense.