Tyrann Mathieu is one preseason game and a couple weeks of training camp practices into what he and the Arizona Cardinals hope is a long NFL career, so it's too soon to know what he'll be as a pro.
But at this moment, it has been nothing but good news for Mathieu. He had a sack, a pass defensed and even two special teams tackles in the Cardinals' first preseason game. He has drawn incredible praise. From ArizonaSports.com, there was this passage:
One scout told me that Tyrann Mathieu was, "pound-for-pound, the best player on the field." And while conversing with an offensive assistant coach he told me that he believed, "No. 32 was going to change the team."
While that is certainly some camp hyperbole, the Cardinals surely aren't regretting their third-round gamble on the troubled defensive back, who missed all last season because he was suspended at LSU.
The player and team each deserve a lot of credit for that.
Mathieu had to understand that he was running out of chances. His well-documented issues with marijuana ended his college football career prematurely, and threatened his NFL career too. He has taken the lessons to heart.
"Obviously, it taught me a whole lot about myself outside of football," Mathieu told the Times-Picayune about his year off football. "It definitely taught me a lot about football, and how much I miss the game, all the things I've got to do to stay a part of the game. I'm just really trying to take advantage of that right now."
The Cardinals have done the right things too. Off the field, the team and Mathieu's teammates have provided support to keep him focused. On the field they've found the right way to use the talented but undersized defensive back.
He has been playing a free safety/nickel cornerback role, and obviously being given freedom to make plays, as shown by his sack against the Packers. Even Mathieu admits it is the right fit.
"It fits me better," Mathieu said, according to the Times-Picayune. "I don't necessarily have to match up with the bigger receivers. I'm a roaming safety, that guy in the middle, and it gives me a chance to make plays and it gives me a chance to be a leader because I'm the one to make calls and put guys in the right position."
There's a long way to go for Mathieu to have a successful NFL career. He's off to a good start though.