Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu smiles before practice Thursday in London.
LONDON, England – The report card for Tyrann Mathieu hasn't been bad.
"I don't think my coach has given me a grade under a 'B' this year," the safety said Thursday prior to the Cards' practice at the London-Irish Rugby Club. "The only reason I'm not getting an 'A' is I'm not making those splash plays."
The splash plays are what the Cardinals count on from their Honey Badger. He does have one in six games, and it was crucial – an interception on the first play of overtime in Indianapolis to set up the game-winning field goal.
Those are the plays that drove Mathieu to prominence back in 2015, plays that haven't been abundant since Mathieu suffered an ACL injury – the second of his career – late that season. Coach Bruce Arians said he thinks Mathieu still needs some confidence when asked about
Mathieu being like his 2015 version.
"Health-wise he is, but he's not playing like it yet," Arians said.
Mathieu has become philosophical on the subject. In the past, a dearth of big plays "would have definitely taken me out of my game."
"But I have a great group of guys around me," Mathieu added. "Ultimately my teammates believe in me and at the end of the day, that's all that really matters."
Confidence grows with splash plays, he said. The opportunities have to come, though. Mathieu said he is certain he will have at least five interceptions, at least 80 tackles. What he wants now is focus on what teams do to him in critical situations, like the potential pick moves on third-and-short or double-moves on long throws.
When the season is over, Mathieu believes he'll grade out fine.
"I feel like I have given up a few plays on third downs, had a few lapses in the Dallas game," Mathieu said. "Aside from that, if I am making those splash plays, people will forget about the third-and-2 I gave up."
THE ROLE OF TRAMON WILLIAMS
Arians had said he wanted cornerback Tramon Williams to get more work during games. The door wasn't closed to Williams taking the starting spot from incumbent Justin Bethel, but it sounds more likely that the Cardinals will be
more strategic in Williams' deployment.
"Each and every week, you sit back and try to find ways to get guys on the field," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "Tramon did a great job in the game as we all saw. We had a package or two that he was heavily involved in. when you put players in certain roles, you just have to wait for those situations to come up.
"As those things come up, we'll be able to use Tramon more. There are a couple other guys I'd love to get on the field more too. There's limited situations and limited snaps when you are able to do that."
ENGLAND-BORN MAURO COMES HOME
Defensive lineman Josh Mauro was born in Hemel Hempstead, just outside of London. His father, who was in a ministry, was stationed in England. Mauro's brother was also born in the city. The family moved to the U.S. when Mauro was 3.
Mauro has some fuzzy memories but "nothing that sticks too much," he said.
Maybe in the offseason, he'll go back to check out his hometown. But like the rest of the Cardinals, there has been much talk of focusing on the game and not sightseeing. Still, that hasn't stopped teammates from asking for advice on what to see and where to go.
"I don't know anything," Mauro said. "I was 3 when I was here last."
Defensive lineman Olsen Pierre (ankle) and defensive lineman Xavier Williams (knee) both returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. Running back Andre Ellington, limited Wednesday with a quadriceps issue, did not practice.
Images from Cardinals practice on Thursday in England