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Secondary Shift As Tony Jefferson Goes To IR

Posted Dec 27, 2016

Notes: Boggs also put on IR; Bethel has best CB game; Boehm to start at guard

The Cardinals put safety Tony Jefferson -- as well as right guard Taylor Boggs -- on IR Tuesday with one game left.

It wasn’t a surprise to hear the news Tony Jefferson was headed to injured reserve Tuesday, but it still underscored the theme of the Cardinals this season after a relatively healthy 2015.

The safety suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in Seattle, and coach Bruce Arians had already said after the game Jefferson probably wasn’t going to be able to play in the finale in Los Angeles this weekend. The injury shouldn’t have an impact on Jefferson’s impending free agency.

(Jefferson tweeted out “Ima be just fine” after the game Saturday.)

The Cardinals also were putting right guard Taylor Boggs on IR with a shoulder injury. Rookie Evan Boehm, who filled in for Boggs (who filled in for Earl Watford, who replaced John Wetzel who had replaced Watford, who filled in for Evan Mathis) in Seattle, will start against the Rams.

Arians isn’t putting tackle D.J. Humphries on IR, but Humphries remains in concussion protocol and even if he were to pass, Arians said he will not play Humphries in the finale. No reason to take a risk, the coach said.

Arians said Jefferson’s replacement is to be determined. Cornerback Marcus Cooper, who sat out the Seahawks game with a back injury, could return this weekend. Rookie cornerback Harlan Miller was Jefferson’s replacement in Seattle, although the Cards could sign a veteran or also use safety Trevon Hartfield in that role.

If Cooper returns, there are multiple ways the Cards could go in the secondary, although Arians said the Cards were “very happy” with how Miller played even though Miller had never been a safety.

“Stay deep. And make tackles,” Arians said. “If you are listening in the meetings you should know what everyone does.”

The Cardinals could still add a player – they have two roster openings which will be likely filled by Wednesday – who could play Sunday. Arians recalled when he was the interim coach with the Colts playing the Chiefs and a player who had signed Tuesday and whom he didn’t know notched a sack. Arians asked around on the sideline what his name was.

“Jamal Westerman,” Arians recalled Tuesday with a smile. “I’ll never forget him now.”

Coincidentally, Westerman actually spent time with the Cardinals in 2012 – before he went to the Colts.

BETHEL’S “BEST GAME”

A couple of weeks ago, when asked if Justin Bethel was a work-in-progress as a cornerback, Arians famously said he was a “failure-in-progress.” But the message was significantly different Tuesday, after Bethel played the whole game – as did rookie Brandon Williams – with Cooper out and Tyrann Mathieu on injured reserve.

“Justin had his best game as a Cardinal as far as a defensive back, and looked really good at nickel,” Arians said. “He’s a good blitzer, a good tackler, so that’s a good spot for him. It’s just that Ty and others play that position most of the time.”

BOEHM AND THE OFFENSIVE LINE

Boehm will get a start at right guard, even though he is a center by trade. Arians said Boehm committed three mental errors in Seattle, two of which came on the blitz. Quarterback Carson Palmer was able to throw the ball away in each instance.

“(Evan) played really well when he didn’t screw up,” Arians said.

Arians also said he thought right tackle Watford “played lights out.”

THE MATHIEU DECISION

The Cardinals were stuck in a secondary quandary in part because they put Mathieu on injured reserve Friday. Arians said the decision was made to end Mathieu’s season because “he just wasn’t ready to play.”

“He was hurting the team as much as taking the chance of hurting him,” Arians said. “He just couldn’t play at his level.”

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