Safety Tyrann Mathieu, named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month for October, returns an interception against the Falcons last weekend.
Tyrann Mathieu was a pick for many before the season to end up as NFL defensive rookie of the year.
That's still a long way from being determined, but Thursday he did catch the league's attention enough for an honor.
The Cardinals' safety was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month for October, after starting all four games and totaling 21 tackles, an interception, a sack and five passes defensed. The interception came Sunday, in the Cards' dominating win over Atlanta heading into the
bye this weekend.
"It felt great," Mathieu said. "Obviously I've been hungry. Since the third week, I haven't touched the ball. It felt good to get my hands on one."
Mathieu's first sack of his career came earlier in the month, when he took down Carolina's Cam Newton.
The third-round pick is one of just six players in the NFL with at least two interceptions, a sack, and a forced fumble on the season. The others are Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonso, Baltimore linebacker Daryl Smith, Carolina safety Mike Mitchell, Giants safety Antrel Rolle, and Denver linebacker Danny Trevathan. Mathieu and Alonso are the only two rookies.
For the season, Mathieu is second on the team in tackles with 45 total (behind the 79 of linebacker Karlos Dansby), with three tackles for loss, two interceptions, nine passes defensed, a forced fumble and three quarterback pressures.
Mathieu has replaced veteran Rashad Johnson as the starting free safety right now, although he moves to nickel cornerback in sub-packages. Coach Bruce Arians would not commit to Mathieu staying in the base starting lineup, although it is clear at this point Mathieu will continue to get most defensive snaps.
Regardless, Mathieu has stayed humble, thanking Johnson for his encouragement and steering most conversations into a team-wide discussion.
"We just have to continue to get better," Mathieu said. "I think we played a great game (against Atlanta)."
Mathieu is the third Cardinals player to be named defensive rookie of the month. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie won the award in December, 2008, while defensive end Simeon Rice was honored in September 1996. Mathieu is the fifth Cardinal rookie overall to get an award, with quarterback Jake Plummer (offense, November 1997) and wide receiver Anquan Boldin (offense, September and November, 2003) also named.