Arizona Cardinals’ Rashad Johnson enjoying battle at safety position

Aug 11, 2015, 5:19 PM
Defensive backs Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers work on a drill at University of Phoenix Stadium ...
Defensive backs Rashad Johnson and Jerraud Powers work on a drill at University of Phoenix Stadium Friday, August 7, 2015. (Photo: Vince Marotta/Arizona Sports)
(Photo: Vince Marotta/Arizona Sports)
LISTEN: Rashad Johnson - Cardinals Safety

The Arizona Cardinals have a lot of play-makers in their secondary. so many that some of them will spend time on the sidelines this season.

Take, for example, the battle for a starting spot between Rashad Johnson and Tyrann Mathieu.

On Monday, the Cardinals released their first depth chart of training camp and had Mathieu listed as the starting free safety, despite Johnson having started all 16 games in 2014 and setting career-highs in tackles (92) and interceptions (4).

Johnson joined Off The Edge with B-Train on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday and discussed the depth and competition of the safety position.

“The safety position is extremely, extremely deep,” he said. “First, it’s not really, none of us have really gotten caught up in the competition of ‘how’s he doing’ or holding back information. We really all enjoy the game and just go out and practice hard and play together. Guys ask me a lot of questions and I give them everything I got.

“The competition is great because it makes each and every one of us come out and give our best every day. I know if I come out and take a day off that (Tyrann) Mathieu will improve and separate the gap and make them think that is the way to go. It makes us all go hard and compete every day. We all understand that we all have different qualities that makes us who we are and important to this team.”

Johnson went on to note that every guy in the safety group — Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon, Mathieu and himself — have their own unique skillset that makes the Cardinals defense one of the strongest in the NFL.

“I’m the mind of the defense, lining the guys up and call the plays before it happens,” Johnson said. “We all bring different qualities to the game. I mean the competition is there, but it really isn’t because we all do different things that makes us great as a defense.”

Arizona seemingly can’t go wrong with either Johnson or Mathieu as their starting safety.

Johnson returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns last season, while ranking second on the defense in tackles. Mathieu returned to play in 13 games after suffering a knee injury at the end of the 2013 season, and recorded 39 tackles with an interception.

The Cardinals may even be able to play both of their play-making safeties at the same time this year, thanks to an evolving league that has turned into more passing and less running.

That would be a benefit to both players.

“With the way the league is going, it has turned into a passing league,” Johnson noted. “A lot of teams have gone to five-wides, four-wides with a tight end, not really running the ball in a traditional offense. That gives us the option to play so many defensive backs and not be suspect in the run defense, so that is a great quality and a possibility that you will see seven defensive backs on the field for us.”

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