Person of Interest: Cardinals ‘dollar’ linebacker Deone Bucannon

Dec 31, 2015, 2:26 PM | Updated: 2:32 pm
In 2014, Deone Bucannon became the first WSU player picked in the first round of the NFL Draft sinc...
In 2014, Deone Bucannon became the first WSU player picked in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2003. (AP)
(AP)

Vitals

Position: First-class Coug defensive back, Cardinals dollar linebacker
Height: 6-1
Weight: 208
Age: 23
Experience: Second season

The storyline

He was the feel-good story for Washington State, chosen No. 27 overall in the 2014 draft. Not only was he the only Coug to be drafted in 2014, but he was the first Coug to be chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft since Marcus Trufant was picked No. 11 overall in 2003.

If Bucannon were a boxer, you’d say he punches above his weight. Drafted as a safety, he hit his way out of that role as a rookie.

“We put him in the nickel package, and he really took off,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians. “And then it was like he was too good to take off the field.”

So Arizona created a position: dollar linebacker. Why the dollar?

“Because it starts in nickel,” Arians said.

Bucannon hasn’t put on weight to play the position. Listed at 208, Bucannon said he weighs 210 now, maybe 211, but there’s no doubting the impact he has made. He intercepted the first pass of his career two weeks ago against the Eagles and returned it for the first touchdown of his NFL career.

Bucannon leads the team with 103 tackles and he also has three sacks.

The statement

Bucannon is typical for Arizona’s defense in that he’s atypical.

“The more position flexibility that you have, the more valuable you are to us,” Arians said.

When Tyran Mathieu suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago, plenty of people assumed Bucannon would move back to safety to be paired with Rashad Johnson. Nope. Bucannon has stuck in that position the Cardinals invented for him, someone physical enough to defend the run yet experienced enough in pass coverage to matchup well with tight ends and running backs.

As for Bucannon, well he didn’t need much of a sales job from Arians to jump at the opportunity.

“He wanted our best 11 guys on the field,” Bucannon said, “and we’re really deep in the secondary, and he just thought that I would be best suited to be closest to the ball just based off my play and things like that. I took it with open arms.”

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