With all the talk of the Arizona Cardinals needing to upgrade at the safety position, many fans, especially many within this community, believe that people are overlooking second-year player Tony Jefferson.
It is an interesting balance. Many feel that the Cardinals got a steal when they landed him on a rookie free agent contract.
With Yeremiah Bell possibly retiring and with the Cardinals not having signed anyone in free agency, signs point to the team drafting a safety, but there is hope that he steps up.
When defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was on the radio recently, he showed this same sentiment. he said in one breath, "hopefully we can add to (the position," and in another breath he said, "we look for Tony to make the jump just like Kevin (Minter)." Minter is expected to be the starter at inside linebacker, replacing Karlos Dansby, who left to the Browns in free agency.
Jefferson played little on defense last season -- a total of 202 snaps all season, including the 53 he played in a starting role Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks.
In terms of what he did, he logged 24 total tackles. That's all the stat sheet says.
Pro Football Focus grades say he was okay on the field. He earned an overall +2.1 for the year, +2.2 in run defense, +1.9 in pass rush and -1.4 in pass coverage.
In coverage, he was targeted nine times. He allowed eight completions, but for only 71 yards. No picks, no touchdowns allowed. QBs targeting him had a 99.5 passer rating.
He was an effective pass rusher. He was called on to go after the QB six times, He generated pressure three times, including once in overtime against the Titans, which forced a throw that was picked off by Antoine Cason.
I am hesitant to think that a second year undrafted player can be counted on as the answer at the position. However, the tools are there. He does play around the line of scrimmage well and showed to be an effective blitzer. Does he solve the coverage issues? Is he "long" enough if paired up with Tyrann Mathieu (Jefferson is 5-11 and Mathieu is 5-9, while Rashad Johnson is also 5-11).
General manager Steve Keim has publicly said that he would like to add length to the position.
Which do you think is more likely -- that Jefferson will be the Week 1 starter, or that a rookie will be the strong safety starter...or coudl it be Yeremiah Bell?
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