D.J. Swearinger has been on the wrong end of some key completions through the first three games.
However, the Cardinals’ veteran safety is confident those were merely speed bumps, and that he will soon return to the form that made him an above average player the past three years.
“Slow start, but it’s getting into this new defense,” Swearinger said. “It is a new defense, so we’ve got to understand how our coordinator (Vance Joseph) is calling it. That’s what September is for. September is for us to get better, to understand how our coach is going to call it, and adjust our style of play according to what he calls. That’s what the first three games have been. Now that we’ve got those first three kinks out of the way, Game 4 will be more vanilla and more smooth and I’ll get back to the style of play of dominating and making plays on the ball like I once did.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Swearinger has allowed eight completions for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 11 passes thrown his way in 2019, which equates to a passer rating of 141.3.
While those numbers are concerning, they are way off from his production from 2016-18, when PFF listed Swearinger as the 13th-best coverage safety in the NFL. Over that span, Swearinger allowed 68-of-111 passes to be completed for 972 yards with seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions, which equates to an opposing passer rating of only 71.1.
Swearinger was a key piece for the Cardinals back in 2016, when he was used mostly at free safety due to the presence of box safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson. He has been used at strong safety this year.
“I like doing both,” Swearinger said. “I’m a center-field guy. I like to see the ball and go make plays, do the flashy plays, the splash plays, playing in space to show off my athletic ability. But I’m with whatever the coach calls. I’ve been more in the box, playing man-to-man this year.”
Wherever he lines up, the Cardinals would benefit from a return to form. The team is thin at cornerback with Patrick Peterson suspended and Robert Alford out due to injury, and the safety duo of Baker and Swearinger was expected to be the most stable part of the secondary.
Swearinger believes he will turn things around beginning Sunday against the Seahawks.
“It’s just a matter of trusting the process and studying the film, knowing what plays I can go get throughout this defense,” Swearinger said. “Sunday will be a great challenge for us. It’s conference play, so the games mean that much more. Our level of play has to go up, and it will go up this week. I’m looking forward to getting back to the Swagger (his nickname) this week.”