It should come at little or no surprise that Arizona Cardinals’ defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is receiving tons of praise this offseason due to his impact on defense.
According to SI.com’s Doug Farrar, Mathieu is the No. 4 ranked hybrid player in the NFL.
There’s a lot of discussion as to whether Mathieu is a better safety or slot cornerback, but the point is moot, because he covers both positions so well.
From tracking receivers in man coverage across the formation, to pattern reading slot receivers up the seam, to blitzing off the edge, to converging in zone coverage and helping over the top as a center-field defender who has the raw speed to keep up with any receiver in the league, there isn’t much he can’t do.
What Mathieu may do best (and what the Cardinals allow him to do that other teams might not) is to guess right in the open field. He’ll bait receivers and then close to pick off passes.
He’ll play off-coverage and move in for a tackle with very bad intentions. And if you’re taking a slant across the field with free space in front of you, then you better keep your head on a swivel, because the Honey Badger is coming fast, and he don’t care.
Last year, Mathieu finished tied for sixth in interceptions (five), tied for ninth in passes defensed (17) and 14th in tackles (89) among all NFL safeties and cornerbacks — all in only 14 games. He earned first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career in 2015.
In terms of his impact for the Cardinals, last year Arizona went 12-2 and allowed 19.2 points per game with Mathieu healthy but were 2-2 (including two playoff games) while allowing 28.2 points per game with Mathieu on the sidelines.
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