The Arizona Cardinals possess multiple playmakers on the offensive side of the ball in quarterback Carson Palmer, wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown and running back David Johnson.
But the old saying is “defense wins championships.”
Luckily for Arizona, the Cardinals also have a collection of young playmakers on that side of the ball, who happened to appear on Fox Sports’ Cameron DaSilva’s “All-Under-25” defensive team.
Dollar linebacker Deone Bucannon and do-everything defensive back Tyrann Mathieu appear on DaSilva’s list.
Sometimes, a position switch is all a player needs. Deone Bucannon moved from safety to linebacker, and it has worked wonders for his game. He started all 16 games last season, totaling 112 tackles, one interception and three forced fumbles. Bucannon isn’t like most other linebackers — he’s smaller and faster with great range — but he can do everything the best at his position can do. Bucannon could start a trend of bigger safeties moving to linebacker.
The Cardinals took a flier on the Washington State prospect in the first-round of the 2014 draft and it looks to have paid off. Bucannon dedicated the offseason to bulking up due to his increased role near the line of scrimmage. Having the range of a safety and the body of a linebacker can prove dangerous for any opposing offense. The 23-year-old’s ability adds an entirely new dimension to defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s playbook.
A safety/cornerback hybrid, Tyrann Mathieu is simply a game-changer in the secondary, regardless of where he’s playing. Injuries have hurt his NFL career thus far, but there’s a reason the Cardinals locked him up long-term this offseason: He’s the best at what he does. Mathieu was a candidate to win Defensive Player of the Year last season before getting injured, and if he plays all 16 games this season, he’ll be a contender for the award again.
Mathieu posted career-highs in combined tackles (89) and interceptions (5) last season and makes his living breaking up the big play. Mathieu tied for ninth in the league last season with 17 passes defended, nine more than the next Cardinal.
The Cardinals were the only team to have two representatives on DaSilva’s list.
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