The Texans made a great decision to sign Tyrann Mathieu in free agency. Unfortunately, they’re planning to use the Honey Badger all wrong.
Tyrann Mathieu’s versatility gives him the ability to be one of the most impactful defensive backs in the NFL. Unfortunately, Bill O’Brien and the rest of the Texans brain trust are going to take that away from the Honey Badger next season.
In fairness to Houston, simplifying Mathieu’s potential role on the team helped them land him in free agency. He believes all of the positions he played for the Cardinals made it impossible for him to focus on any one spot. As a result, he’s excited about the chance to just focus on being a safety for the Texans.
Matthieu believes leaving him at one spot will help him “perfect his craft.” Unfortunately, it’s also going to significant lessen his effectiveness as a player. Part of the beauty of the Honey Badger was his ability to play safety, corner and even blitzing linebacker at times for the Cardinals. His value comes directly from his ability to make instinctual plays all over the field.
Texans fans should be really concerned that leaving Mathieu back at safety is going to make his game too vanilla. Yes, he can do a quality job of playing center field against deep passes. Yes, the Texans can also bring him closer to the line of scrimmage under certain circumstances. Pigeonholing him in as a safety still will prevent him from becoming as much of a matchup problem for opposing offenses.
In fact, Matthieu’s lack of height might allow him to be targeted. Don’t be surprised to see Texans opponents try to isolate him against bigger, taller wide receivers down the field. Matthieu has excellent ball skills, but he can’t compete with a 6-foot-5 wide receiver or tight end on a regular basis. Limiting Mathieu’s versatility could make the Texans vulnerable down the field.
Bill O’Brien is a smart coach who should be able to cook up a variety of ways to use Tyrann Mathieu on defense. He needs to let the Honey Badger do what he does best. If he tries to turn him into a conventional safety he’s going to be very disappointed with Mathieu’s impact on his football team.