Could Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu contend for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award?
In a prime time Sunday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Arizona Cardinals were on their way to victory. Running back David Johnson led the Cardinals to the NFC West crown with 187 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.
However, the Cardinals came away with more than just a hat and a t-shirt. With less than 3 minutes to go in the game, safety Tyrann Mathieu picked off Eagles’ Sam Bradford and landed awkwardly on his right knee and collapsed to the ground.
The next day it was announced that Mathieu would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
Following a successful surgery and Mathieu killing his rehab, the Honey Badger was able to return for the season opener. While Mathieu would like to return to his role from last season as the nickel back. In this role, trailing receivers and blitzing the quarterback, Mathieu was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.
However, Mathieu knows it’s best to be cautious rather than cause a setback.
"Even though I want to compete really bad, I just want to be mindful it’s a long season. I’m sure my teammates would rather have me in December playing those types of positions rather than September."
For now, Mathieu is currently playing the role of free safety, deep in the secondary away from the action. Head coach Bruce Arians needs to see the quickness and explosiveness from Mathieu, until then he’s stuck playing safety. Despite all these obstacles, Mathieu should be a favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year.
Mathieu has all the physical talent and the right mindset to get himself back to his former self. With a knack for ball location and reading offenses, he is simply too talented and has too large of a role not to come back better than ever.
Mathieu himself said that he feels much more confident after every game.
"I feel like I’m getting closer. Every week, after the game, it feels better. So I would hope that I’m getting real close…but as games go on, I feel better, I’m getting more comfortable."
With players like Patrick Peterson on the field, it removes any burden on Mathieu to hurry in his return. While he has gotten off to a slow start this season, Mathieu is showing glimpses that he is returning to the player he was for most of last season.
Carson Palmer came second in voting last year to Kansas City Chiefs‘ safety Eric Berry. Look for Tyrann Mathieu to be the first Cardinal to snag the award.