Tyrann Mathieu had a banner 2015 season for the Arizona Cardinals, though unfortunately it got cut short by a torn ACL in a Week 15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, what the third-year pro accomplished in 14 games — 89 total tackles, five interceptions, one sack — and the way in which he did it impressed many throughout the NFL to the point where he was being mentioned as a candidate for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.
The winner of the award will be announced Saturday, and while Mathieu is not likely to hear his name called, that does not mean there are not people who believe he deserves the honor.
Over at NFL.com, a host of panelists was asked to make their pick for the DPOY Award, and while Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt earned the most votes, it was the Cardinals’ safety who came in second with four.
Nate Burleson, who played wide receiver in the NFL, wrote that Mathieu is the league’s Swiss Army Knife.
Despite being an undersized defensive back, Tyrann Mathieu proved to be the most versatile defensive player in the league this year. He’s able to guard everything, from wideouts to tight ends to running backs, and he’s one of the best tacklers in the NFL.
It’s very unfortunate his season prematurely ended in Week 15, but don’t forget about the spectacular campaign he already had enjoyed.
Dave Dameshek wrote that Mathieu’s play reminds him of greats Troy Polamalo and Ed Reed.
Play for play, Aaron Donald is the most disruptive interior D-lineman I can recall seeing since Steve Emtman was a Washington Husky, but Tyrann Mathieu’s instinctive freelancing recalls past Def Players of the Year Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed — and the Honey Badger had a similar impact on one of the league’s best teams.
Elliot Harrison believes Mathieu’s versatility is akin to Charles Woodson when he was at the height of his powers.
Look at what happened to the Cardinals in the postseason without Tyrann Mathieu on the field. The Packers, with the legendary pass-catching triumvirate of Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis and Richard Rodgers tore Arizona apart. Ditto Corey Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. in the NFC Title Game.
No DB since Charles Woodson in Green Bay has been able to be used at corner, safety and in the slot, while also blitzing off the edge and making free-roaming plays the way the Honey Badger did in 2015.
And finally, former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson gave his thoughts, and it starts with him believing Mathieu’s presence in Arizona should be recognized.
Mathieu played around 98 percent of Arizona’s defensive snaps before he went down with the knee injury in Week 15. That’s like a quarterback figure; most defensive players don’t do that. His impact on the Cardinals’ defense is something you really can’t quantify.
It has been reported the Cardinals are planning to approach the 23-year-old Mathieu, who was a third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, about signing a long-term contract extension this offseason, which is something the defensive back has said is “very encouraging.”