“Debunking the Myth that is the Honey Badger” -Why Tyrann Mathieu Won’t Work for the Redskins

| March 27, 2013 | 14 Comments

 

The MYTH:  In 2011, deep in the Louisiana bayou lived a snarling, ferocious, ball-hawking monster that terrorized offenses with speed and aggression, leaving countless bodies in his wake.  This monster of a player, named Tyrann Mathieu, will continue dismantling offenses in the NFL and will become a valuable asset in the backfield for any team that drafts him.

 

The TRUTH:  Well, I’m afraid the truth is a bit less dramatic, but we’ll get there in a moment.  First I’d like to get his off-field history out of the way so we can focus on the good stuff.  Tyrann Mathieu was relieved of his duties at LSU following multiple failed drug tests at the beginning of the 2012 season.  He entered rehab, completed treatment, and then last October was arrested for possession of Marijuana.  These are all serious red flags, but people can change and NFL teams take calculated risks on talented players every season.  The purpose of this article is to take his off-field issues out of the equation altogether and provide an unbiased, unassuming look at the strengths and weaknesses of Mathieu’s play and whether he could fill a need on the Redskins roster.

Leon Sandcas… Err, excuse me, Deion Sanders recently shared an absolutely glowing endorsement of Mathieu with the media, possibly boosting his draft stock and definitely propelling him back into the public eye.  The resurgence he has had, combined with his “honey badger” persona and his profound playmaking abilities have many Redskins fans buying into the hype and inquiring about the defensive back’s likelihood of being drafted onto the Redskins’ secondary.  Unfortunately for those who have found themselves enamored with him, Mathieu would be a very unwise selection for the Redskins this April.

Tyrann Mathieu is undersized as a defensive back at only 5’9 and 186 lbs.  His film, and his poor showing at the combine in strength testing showed his inability to match large receivers in their physicality.  He struggles at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage, and while he does well in open space on angling and reading his opponents body language, he gets too aggressive trying to create turnovers and ends up missing tackles.  He is a middle of the pack blitzer, and was inconsistent in defending the run.  Having said that, Mathieu does seem to have superb awareness for being in the right place at the right time.  With four interceptions and a startlingly high eleven forced fumbles at LSU, it’s easy to see why people see him as a playmaker.  I’m far from convinced that he could keep production like this coming in the NFL, but even if he reached similar numbers he isn’t the type of back the Redskins should draft.

In 2012, Washington was ranked second in the NFL in turnover differential with 31 takeaways and only 14 giveaways.  They ranked third in interceptions (recording 21), falling behind only Chicago and Arizona.  Despite these promising statistics, we ranked an atrocious 28th in the NFL in defending the pass.  Clearly our defense isn’t suffering because of play-making ability, we’ve just lost step with the basics.  Missed coverage and missed tackles led to yards and touchdowns.  Mathieu’s tackling ability is simply not up to par with what the Redskins need.  Despite his tenacious attitude, his size prevents him from taking large receivers to the ground.  Imagine Mathieu trying to take down 6’5, 236lb, Calvin Johnson and his 43-inch vertical jump and it’s almost laughable.  This match up would likely never take place as Mathieu would probably be relegated to nickel corner duties, but even against college play he had issues.  In 2011, Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rogers (6’2, 217lb) basically carried Mathieu fifteen yards on his back following initial contact, and only went down when Brandon Taylor saved the day with the assist.  The Redskins’ front office should be looking for reliable coverage and dependable, sure-fire tacklers, not ball hawks trying to make a play at a strip.

Mathieu was an undeniable presence on special teams at LSU, throwing down 421 yards on 27 attempted punt returns, two of which were returned for touchdowns.  This alone can’t be considered reason to draft him.  For one the sample size is much too small.  Then there’s Richard Crawford, who showed great potential finishing off the 2012 season after the benching of Brandon Banks.  On eight punt returns he amassed 156 yards, including a miraculously timed 64-yard return against Baltimore, which helped shore up the Redskins’ overtime win.  Crawford’s average in 2012 was 19.5 yards per return, actually besting Mathieu, who finished his 2011 season with a 15.6 yards per return average.  With Keith Burns working with Crawford this off-season on improving the return game, drafting a return specialist, in what would have to be a middle round, can only be described as a catastrophic waste of a selection in a year where every pick has to count.

Tyrann Mathieu has good eyes, good hands, great instincts, and the intangibles everyone always talks about, and even so I’m praying the Redskins don’t consider him.  The kid, simply put, makes me nervous.  It’s a huge risk vs. reward scenario with the Honey Badger, and the Redskins should play it safe and only bet the farm on someone they know can deliver reliability and dependability to the backfield. HTTR

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11 comments
jarem
jarem

I don't think it is sustainable for Fletch to have 5 interceptions or Rob Jackson to have 4. They are not ball hawks so some of the 21 interceptions are very flukey. And without D-Hall, we really could use a ball hawk. Also, our biggest need is a slot corner over outside (we could use both actually). We we got burned to a toast last year. It was either by tight ends or slot WRs. Amendola anyone? Cruz (well he does that to many people, but he is on the slot 68% of the time). Bolden (he plays a high amount of slot corner). Percy Harvin! Biggers is supposed to be better outside than slot. As is Josh and richard crawford (he played slot early in the year and that was when he got benched. He said himself he feels more comfortable outside. Even the guy we wanted to draft in the third last year in the 3rd but went a round earlier (casey hayward) is a slot corner.

jarem
jarem

Most draft pundits actually project him as a slot corner where his lack of height would not be as bad. Many of the elite slot WRs are actually not that tall: Welker, Bess, Amendola, Kerley, Santana etc…and even slot corners that excel are not necessarily that tall either. More important is fluid hips and quick twitch speed that allows them greater change of direction. This is where Mathieu excels. His ability to move in space showed very well both in the combine and on game tape. I doubt he would actually find himself in a situation man to man with calvin johnson (actually when is calvin johnson every really man to man)? I agree, his tackling can be improved, but at least that is a skill that can be improved on. D-Hall definitely improved on it as a redskin when he was quite poor his entire career. His ability to create turnovers is another plus. With Orakpo back, we should be able to create pressure that was non existant last year. Him demanding double teams would free up Kerrigan to create quite a tandem. With us lacking a ball hawk, he would be a good fit IMHO. Also, I have always been a fan/sucker for second chances and if he is there in the third (originally he was pegged as a mid to high second rounder based solely on game tape) and if he is trying to change and available in the 3rd, he would be a great get.

Allaine
Allaine

Tyler, a lot of the time most insiders are wrong. Some forward thinking team is looking at this kid and considering him early. If he's there in the 2nd, his defensive and special team playmaking skills make him worth the pick.

OlSkool1972
OlSkool1972

Please do a similiar post on Ray Ray Armstrong because I keep seeing the same hype from Skins fans on him as well.

JukenPNukem
JukenPNukem

I'm not caught up in the hype but he could help elevate our ST. Why not take a shot on him in the 4 or 5 round. Is Crawford a better player than Mathieu?

Steveospeak
Steveospeak

Great post Tyler, he's not worth the hype. It is absolutely the best to stay away from him.

Allaine
Allaine

Just think, if Mathieu had not jumped on that receiver's back his teammate would not have been able to come and assist him. He didn't quit on the play! Last year's 31 take-aways turns into 40 with his 4 interceptions and numerous forced fumbles. Take him and take him in the 2nd round!

Z Boy
Z Boy

Can you link any article that says "This monster of a player, named Tyrann Mathieu, will continue dismantling offenses in the NFL" I've never seen one. Also, it's laughable to say that he couldn't matchup with the 6'5 230lb Calvin Johnson. No one can. There probably 2-3 DB's in the NFL that can bother him, but no one can single cover him. If this article had more facts than exaggerated opinions, I'd like it. Right now it just sounds like Lavar or Chad Dukes yelling without making any thought out points

Tyler Dahnke
Tyler Dahnke

Jarem, I stated in my article he would most likely be covering the slot, so I agree. I also said that the CJ matchup would likely never take place, so again I agree. It's not exactly his height I'm worried about (I'll be thrilled with a Winfield (5'9) signing), so much as his strength and tackling technique. Technique can be improved, but why waste the time when there are start ready players out there? Tyrann Mathieu will never be an elite DB in the NFL, and this draft class is deep in the position, so why spend a draft pick on an overhyped project? Pass rush will be improved this season, I agree, but lightened pressure applies to anyone we place in the position, what exactly does that have to do with drafting Mathieu? Last season we had 21 interceptions, and all but four were picked by people not named DeAngelo Hall. We still have playmakers on the team. Believe it. I agree, if he succeeds his story is heartwarming in a Disney Channel sort of way, and second chances ARE fun to watch but you're analyzing through emotion, not reason. Bottom line: there are better, less risky players in the draft we should select over the HB. Thank you for the response I enjoy reading well thought out, analytical posts. -Tyler

Tyler Dahnke
Tyler Dahnke

Nukem, I'm not convinced his performance on punt returns would best the potential Crawford showed at the end of last season. In my opinion a special teams only asset would be a wasted draft pick in a middle round, and as I don't view Mathieu as a reliable starter at corner or safety for us, that's what it would be. We need depth at Oline, Safety, Corners, TE (if Fred leaves), RB, and we should start grooming a new slot WR to replace Moss. With all of those needs and no money for free agency, using a pick on a special teams guy is a mistake. Thanks for your response, -Tyler

Tyler Dahnke
Tyler Dahnke

Allaine, it's a double edged sword. Turnovers might increase, I doubt it but its possible, but missed tackles would also likely see a rise. It comes down to what we need most and thats stability, not a play making increase. This is all assuming he starts. Further, taking him in the second would be a waste, most insiders have him pegged to be selected in the fourth round. If we were to select him that's where it would happen -Tyler

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