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Palmer: Tyrann Mathieu like Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed

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Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is "pound-for-pound the best player in the league," NFL Media analyst Brian Baldinger raved earlier this month.

Around The NFL has compared the Defensive Player of the Year candidate to a combination of former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield and former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

Carson Palmer offered a similar comparison this week.

"I had the privilege of playing against Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed for a long time and I think those two guys are the two best defensive guys I've ever faced," Palmer said, via CSN Philly's Dave Zangaro. "And [Mathieu] is a mix of both of them. He's right down the middle between Ed and Troy.

"He understands the game. He sees the game before plays happen. If you miss a ball, he will intercept it. You've got to be right on with your accuracy around him, just like Ed. Ed was the exact same way. He's got some skill to him. He'll just jump a play like Troy and guess and be right what seems like all the time."

Praise doesn't come much higher. Reed and Polamalu are widely recognized as not just future Hall of Famers, but also the premier safeties of the 21st century.

The more versatile Mathieu tackles as well as any safety, covers as well as any cornerback and boasts extraordinary instincts, ball skills and blitz timing.

In advance of Sunday's matchup, Eagles coach Chip Kelly is most struck with the Honey Badger's competitive fire.

"He's an unbelievable competitor first and foremost," Kelly acknowledged. "He just kind of plays the game with a passion. He seems like he has a nose for the football. He rises up to all the challenges even though he's a little shorter than most guys in the secondary. That doesn't seem to affect him. He did a great job covering Jimmy Graham when they played Seattle, where maybe a lot of people wouldn't have looked at that challenge.

"He's got outstanding ball skills. He was a really good returner. He always seems to have a way to be around the football and a knack for making plays at critical points in time during games. The one thing you notice about him is his competitiveness."

Mathieu and lockdown corner Patrick Peterson have anchored the NFL's best secondary this season. Even if the former LSU teammates lose out to J.J. Watt, Josh Norman or Aaron Donald for Defensive Player of the Year honors, All Pro voters should carve out space for both Arizona stars this season.

Watching the entertaining Cardinals play every week, it's easy to see why Bruce Arians has labeled Mathieu his "happiest draft choice."

"Looking at him coming out (of LSU), he's the same player now," defensive coordinator James Bettcher told NFL Media's Albert Breer this week. "He's electric. When you watch, it's like there are three or four of him out there. He's all over the place.

"He's as good a player as you'll get, highly regarded by his teammates, a team guy who's great in the room. (GM Steve Keim) and Coach did a great of making that pick, and getting him. I'm glad we have him."

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