TEMPE, Ariz. -- Life after the Honey Badger has begun.
Members of the Arizona Cardinals' secondary are slowly getting used to the idea of not having Tyrann Mathieu either on the field next to them or in the locker room with them. And it hasn’t been an easy transition.
“It’s definitely going to be different, man,” safety Antoine Bethea said at Mathieu’s charity kickball game this past Saturday. “Just what Tyrann was able to bring to the field, at the safety position, at the nickel position. Just what he meant to the team.
“So, definitely it’s going be tough not having him out there. But he’s going to move on to bigger and better things.”
Mathieu was cut by the Cardinals on March 14 and signed with the Houston Texans two days later.
And now the Cardinals are left to figure out a way to replace Mathieu, both on and off the field.
When he was healthy, Mathieu was a disruptive force in the box, off the edge and in coverage. Off the field, he was one of the emotional heartbeats of the team over the past five years.
His departure leaves four safeties on the Cardinals’ roster heading into offseason workouts next week: Budda Baker, who is Mathieu’s heir apparent, Rudy Ford, Harlan Miller and Bethea. Ford played just one defensive snap in 2017, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Miller played 54 in five games while bouncing on and off the roster and between the active roster and practice squad. Baker didn’t see regular action on defense until Week 10 after Tyvon Branch got hurt. Then Baker started the final seven games of the season.
Branch is still a free agent as he continues to recover from ACL surgery.
Mathieu, on the other hand, played the most snaps in the NFL last season.
With new coach Steve Wilks a defensive mind, he’ll install his own scheme. But Bethea doesn’t know if his role will change much next season.
“I’m not sure,” Bethea said. “We’ll have to see. Our secondary is very unique, especially when you have a guy like Pat P [Patrick Peterson] at the corner -- you can do so many things within the scheme. So, we’ll see.
“As far as the defense, I think having a new coach coming in, bringing in their system, I think we’ll be fine, just having the guys in place to succeed.”