If there is a bright spot for the Arizona Cardinals in the loss of Tyrann Mathieu for the season, it’s the fact that they are not the only team dealing with key guys or leaders being injured and done for the year, according to ESPN’s John Clayton.
“You watch from now until the next four or five weeks and you’re going to see that one or two playoff teams are going to lose a player,” Clayton said Wednesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Doug and Wolf. “It’s a battle of attrition and you have to have the depth to be able to step up.”
The good news for the Cardinals (12-2), Clayton said, is the job that general manager Steve Keim has done at stocking up depth at the defensive back position. It’s why the Cardinals are still a Super Bowl contender despite the loss of one of their defensive leaders.
But having guys step up when others get injured has been a part of the Cardinals’ character this season. Case in point: running back David Johnson, who rushed for 187 yards on 29 carries with three touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Johnson has been carrying the rushing attack since Chris Johnson cracked his tibia against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 29.
The Cardinals are hoping to have that same type of production out of the secondary now with Mathieu done for the year and will look to Deone Bucannon, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson and D.J Swearinger to carry the load.
“You are not going to be able to find anybody that is the playmaker that Mathieu is, but you can see that there is enough guys with enough options,” Clayton said. “You look at the secondary, it’s so versatile in how they use things. You look at Mathieu, is he a corner, is a he a safety, all he is is a great playmaker.”
Bucannon is leading the team with 99 total tackles while Rashad Johnson is currently tied for the team lead in interceptions with Mathieu at five. Both are expected to be tested Sunday when the Cardinals host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers with a chance to lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“It’s kind of a test, but it’s not a full test,” Clayton said of the Packers who locked up a playoff spot with their win against the Oakland Raiders last week. “It should have playoff implications and have the feel of a playoff game, but it really doesn’t because just about everything is clinched in the NFC.”
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