Cardinals better equipped for losing Tyrann Mathieu short term

TEMPE, Ariz. -- This Arizona Cardinals secondary is better equipped to handle losing Tyrann Mathieu this season than it was a year ago.

That, by no means, implies Mathieu’s loss for what’s likely to be at least two games won’t hurt Arizona. Neither his tangibles nor his intangibles can be replaced by Tony Jefferson, who’ll take over Mathieu’s role at safety. While Mathieu’s ball-hawking ability hasn’t been as prevalent this season because he’s still regaining his rhythm after LCL and ACL surgery kept him out of the safety rotation until Week 6, he has one interception and three pass defensed this season.

Mathieu is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday to repair his fractured left thumb, the Cardinals confirmed. He’s “not necessarily” out three weeks, the team said, which means he could return in time for Seattle’s visit to University of Phoenix Stadium.

If there are two games the Cardinals can afford to lose Mathieu for, it’s Sunday against Kansas City and next weekend at St. Louis. The Chiefs are ranked 31st in passing offense, while the Rams are currently 26th. But the Cardinals have the personnel to make up for Mathieu’s loss this season.

In 2013, he was a three-in-one defensive back who could play free safety, nickel corner and outside corner if needed. With the addition of cornerback Antonio Cromartie, Mathieu wasn’t needed on the edge anymore. Jerraud Powers was moved to nickel while Mathieu continued to recover from his knee injury, and when he returned, Powers was playing so well that he remained at the nickel.

That left Mathieu at safety, where he’s played this season. When Mathieu missed the season opener and then began slowly working his way back into the rotation during the next three games, Jefferson filled his role and will again be called upon to replace Mathieu.

Mathieu will be missed, but Arizona has the depth to seamlessly move on from his absence, regardless of how long it is.