It defies explanation that Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson wasn't drafted.
But the bottom line is, the Big 12's second-leading tackler last season signed with Arizona. Jefferson faced long odds to make the roster but recorded two interceptions last week against Dallas, a performance that has him on the Cardinals' radar.
“I played fast, how I can play,” Jefferson said in a telephone interview with The Oklahoman. “It showed coaches they can trust me a little bit. I feel that game will help.”
Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said earlier this week that Jefferson's recent performance gives the San Diego area product an opportunity to make the practice squad.
Jefferson has a higher goal.
“I want to make the team,” Jefferson said. “My focus is to go out and show them the potential I have and continue to make plays. After that, it's up to the coaches.”
Jefferson's first interception was off veteran Kyle Orton late in the first half. His second interception, which came off third-teamer Alex Tanney, was in the final four minutes. Players on the field at the end of preseason games usually are on the most-likely-cut list.
But Jefferson's solid play has moved him up to third team. His play in Saturday night's game against San Diego could be a huge factor in the Cardinals' final decision.
“He had a nice ballgame,” Arians told The Arizona Republic. “He had a really good week of practice. It's the first time it looked like the light went on. If he can build on that, he'll have a chance.”
Jefferson played free safety at OU. He's a strong safety with the Cardinals, who praised his playmaking skills when they aggressively pursued Jefferson after the draft.
“They told me they wanted me to basically do what I did in college, make plays,” Jefferson said. “That's what I'm trying to do. I feel I've been playing well in practice and it's showing in games. I just need to keep it rolling.”
Choosing the Cardinals
Jefferson, who also recorded five tackles in the Dallas game, fielded calls from several teams after going undrafted. Signing with the Cardinals is another puzzling chapter of Jefferson's story.
The Cardinals have a quality secondary that includes Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson. They also drafted Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, who appears to be a third-round steal if he stays out of trouble.
The Jets and Raiders were the other two teams on Jefferson's final list, but he and his agent liked Arizona.
“I picked the Cardinals because I thought they were a better situation for me,” Jefferson said. “They have a lot of guys on one-year deals. I've just got to keep making plays.”
Jefferson consistently made plays at OU, which is why it's puzzling that he went undrafted after leaving a year early.
He made an immediate impact with the Sooners. Jefferson started nine games as a freshman, recorded 65 tackles and was named the Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.