Tyrann Mathieu. The name in itself is unique.
His last name Mathieu means “Gift of God,” which is probably how coach Bruce Arians and some others in management felt getting him in the third round of this year’s NFL draft. But isn’t that how all first-year coaches are supposed to feel about their picks? Some fans and pundits included felt he was taken too high, let alone taken in some cases like those opinions of former Colts alum Bill Polian and Tony Dungy.
In regards to his past transgressions and recent fortune with this opportunity, Mathieu has vowed to take drug tests every week, and he’s ready to turn his football career and his whole life around in Arizona. And this is also unique, as former Cardinals shied away from such personalities, talented or not.
However it’s not what’s in a name; it’s what in his game that should be dissected. It is interesting there was no hesitation with coach Arians saying he would be used as a safety. A 5’8″ safety is not ideal if your thinking in terms of the Cardinals’ past. Tim McDonald and Adrian Wilson were some hard hitters, and you would expect the same with Mathieu. However, the NFL has changed and with a coaching staff with close to a century’s worth of experience I am not second guessing the decision.
I would assume the fact of calling him safety instead of a nickel back is because he will be on the field a lot more than just nickel sets. It should give the Cardinals the freedom to assign him to the trendiest position in the NFL; the slot receiver.
His uncanny ability to cause turnovers as dictated during the year he was a finalist for the Heisman will be an asset covering the most targeted receiver in the NFL, and with names like Sydney Rice and recently drafted Tavon Austin he will need them.
Ultimately, you want a leader back there not just a playmaker. Someone to get the linemen in the right position, the last line of defense. Cardinals fans have become spoiled these last few years with Adrian Wilson’s performance, leadership, interceptions, sacks and jarring hits, which were secondary to his football intelligence.
Mathieu is now under the microscope for the right reasons things like dropping the Honey Badger, moniker as well as his new coach vouching for him and giving him the opportunity to use the those special gifts he was given. He has the ability to step in and assume the role of a leader, which is what the Cardinals’ secondary needs.
And when you add that to his performance, you will get a player who can change everything in Arizona.