While most NFL scouts had 1st round grades on former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, it’s safe to say those grades will certainly fall out of the top round slot in light of his recent dismissal from the team. Repeatedly violating the team’s substance abuse policy, Mathieu apparently didn’t learn his lesson after being suspended from 1 game last season. Caught for a 3rd failed drug test, Mathieu now contains major red flags involving commitment to the team, selfishness off the field, and worst of all, substance addiction.
Although there are a handful of players in the NFL who’ve kicked such habits, overcome such red flags, and grown up into respected professionals, Mathieu without question has the odds stacked against him. What can he do now? Well, transferring down a level is a given and dominating against weaker competition is a must, but more specifically what can he do at McNeese State to help his draft status?
How The Honey Badger Needs to Change
First and foremost, tone down the attitude and do whatever the coaches ask. In being humble and professional in his off-field approach, Mathieu can show that he’s grown and learned from his mistakes. Known as a brash trash talker on Twitter, Mathieu would benefit from toning down his “Me First” mentality and staying out of the limelight this season. The focus needs to shift from an off-the-field iconic status, to the football field and film room. Mathieu only has a short time to impress his new coaching staff with improved character, and will need to do so by being coachable and out-working the rest of his teammates.
Earning the respect of a new coaching staff, assimilating into the system, and providing a plus work ethic to the team are just a few ways in which the Honey Badger can mend his image among NFL scouts and decision makers. The red flags won’t disappear, but maturity level can and must improve in order to hold a high draft grade.
Mathieu Still Has Undeniable Talent
As a prospect, Mathieu is incredibly unique, talented, and instinctive. Lacking ideal size, Mathieu more than makes up for this deficiency by having an uncanny, ability to make plays in the secondary. Lining up as an outside linebacker, nickel corner, boundary corner, or safety on any given play, Mathieu served as LSU’s most important defender. Quick as a hiccup with an explosive downhill accelerator, Mathieu blows up screen developments, sticking receivers with violent striking ability as a tackler. Mathieu’s lateral agility, overall suddenness as an athlete, and sideline-to-sideline speed make him an excellent space player and reliable open field tackler.
A plug and play, dynamic playmaker at the slot cornerback position, Mathieu’s impact will be immediate with McNeese State. Strong enough to mix it up inside versus the run, fast enough to close down space outside the tackle box, able to cover across the field, and even showcasing the explosiveness to rush the passer, there’s not a whole lot Tyrann Mathieu can’t do as a defensive player. What hasn’t even been mentioned is his run after the catch ability, open field running skills, and elite vision as a ball carrier; likely to return kicks and punts for the Cowboys, expect a touchdown total nearing double digits for the ball hawk, play making machine, who was a 2012 Heisman finalist.
Meet His New Running Mate, Malcolm Bronson
Similar to the Honey Badger in many aspects, Malcolm Bronson exhibits the same type of violent, emotional, and physical style of play, while having a knack for coming up with big-time plays in crucial moments. An aggressive player that will take some chances in the secondary, Bronson similarly struggles in sustaining coverage downfield when the play breaks down. And much like Mathieu, he is best when facing the action. So how much of a prospect is Malcolm Bronson really?
First off, Malcolm Bronson possesses much better size measurables than his new McNeese State teammate, Tyrann Mathieu, as he holds a rock solid, 5’11 200 pound frame. Quicker than fast with a 4.5 estimated 40 time, Bronson shows out with his short area acceleration, explosive hitting power, and plus ball skills. Exceptional in run support, Bronson showcases the click and close athleticism to be a dynamic, alley defender. Flying downhill full speed, Bronson more importantly does an excellent job of breaking down on the ball carrier and wrapping up to secure the tackle.
A violent headhunter in the back half, Bronson led the team in total tackles, pass break ups, and forced fumbles, delivering vicious hits to separate the receiver from the football. Sitting into his pedal and type-writing his steps back into coverage, Bronson also displays the range to cover the deep middle third and deep outer half of the field; reading the eye level of the quarterback and reacting quickly to the ball in air, Bronson constantly gets his hands on the football, as evidenced by his two-year totals of 7 interceptions and 15 pass deflections.
The McNeese State Secondary As a Team
With the addition of Mathieu, this secondary will undoubtedly be much improved in 2012. McNeese State can do one of three things with the recently dismissed LSU Tiger. One, there’s a possibility that Mathieu could play the boundary corner position on 1st and 2nd down, while kicking inside to the slot on 3rd downs to be in a blitzing position. Two, McNeese State could line Mathieu as a 3rd safety, replacing one of the outside linebackers while improving the defense’s team speed. Or thirdly, remove the team’s strong safety and replace him with Mathieu, shifting from a 4-3 to a 4-4 defense on occasion, having number 7 play a “Hammer” outside linebacker position.
Personally, I like the idea of utilizing Mathieu in a 3rd safety role, adding schematic versatility and bringing more speed to the game. In a pass-first league with Stephen F. Austin, Southeastern Louisiana, Lamar, and Central Arkansas, Mathieu needs to be on the field at all times and utilized as the unique “chess piece” that he is as a player. McNeese needs to be flexible and multiple with their defense, in order to get the full benefit of having Tyrann Mathieu on their team.