Before the season, which players would you have said would have the most impact on the team this season? Wyoud have said Tyrann Mathieu, as he returns from injury? How about Deone Bucannon's ability to learn the defense and play in coverage? How about Tony Jefferson playing a majority of snaps and having more tackles and in three games than he had all last season?
Because that's exactly what he's done. Leading with 26 tackles, Tony Jefferson has become the most consistent safety for the Cardinals.
Not only does he lead in tackles he is one of three players with a sack.
I know it is not unexpected that he is improving. Many of us watched him last year and saw a player who was young and unpolished, but still able to earn playing time in relief of Rashad Johnson.
But few can claim they predicted the other second year safety, the undrafted one, would improve so much to become a starter, becoming an important cog in maintaining a strong defense with the loss of two starting linebackers. Even then, can those same fans admit they predicted Jefferson would be leading the team in any statistic?
If so, I need to shake your hands.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't as if he was considered talentless. It was universally said he came out of college a year early from Oklahoma. If he had just waited another year he may have even been drafted in the top 3 rounds. Jefferson knows this. He heard it ever since he declared. In an article on the Cardinals official team site, he even admitted it bothered him all last year. And after last season the only bright spot was Tyrann Mathieu who is coming back from injury. It was such an issue, the Cardinals drafted Bucannon in the first round.
Now? If Mathieu can get back to his old form and Bucannon use the next year to improve. The Cards may well have one of the best safety cores in country in a year or two.
All throughout the offseason the coaches and front office repeated that the production Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington made last year would have to come from the other 11 players now on the field. It seems that wasn't just coach-speak. They expected that production from the other players.
And it seems the Cardinals' 2014 best safety*, Tony Jefferson, listened.
*I know it's only been three games.