Tyrann Mathieu Revitalizes the Texans Secondary

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Nov 26, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) breaks up a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole in the second quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Strong safety Tyrann Mathieu signed a one-year, seven million dollar contract with the Houston Texans last Friday. After a contract dispute with the Arizona Cardinals, Mathieu hit free agency and decided to move on to H-Town.

After a season where the Texans secondary was horrendous, signings like Mathieu and cornerback Aaron Colvin will hopefully rejuvenate a defense that allowed the 24th most yards per game of any team in the NFL last season.

The Texans safeties were a particular problem last season, with Marcus Gilchrist being a below average safety who was let go in free agency. This is why general manager Brian Gaine decided to make the first big move of the Texans offseason and sign Mathieu.

Mathieu, a five-year strong safety out of LSU, has played with the Arizona Cardinals his entire professional career. Over these five seasons, “Honey Badger” garnered an All-Rookie selection in 2013 and an All-Pro season in 2015. He has also compiled eleven interceptions, four forced fumbles, and 281 tackles over 57 games.

Tyrann Mathieu (32) returning one of his eleven career interceptions against the San Francisco 49ers (Christian Petersen/Getty Images).

Mathieu is known for his big-play ability, whether he is blitzing on the edge, forcing turnovers, or knocking rushers off their feet. His versatility makes him the perfect strong safety for the modern-day NFL, as he can cover slot receivers, play zone coverage, stop rushers in their tracks, and be effective in short passing situations.

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But the problems with Mathieu are still glaring, as his passer rating to slot receivers went from 70.3 in 2015, to 130.2 in 2016, and 91.6 in 2017 (Pro Football Focus). On top of his drop in efficiency in coverage, Mathieu has already had two ACL tears in five seasons.

Despite these issues, Mathieu is still a massive upgrade from Marcus Gilchrist, and will help put even more pressure on the quarterback. With the Texans already having an elite defensive front, Mathieu could help players like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney further terrorize opposing quarterbacks.

In addition, with the recent release of Brian Cushing, Mathieu could also help fill the leadership gap and replace any pressure the defensive front was lacking after the long-time Texan’s release.

The only way this signing wouldn’t end up being a major steal for the Texans is if Mathieu gets injured again or continues his struggles against slot receivers. But I think the change of scenery will allow Mathieu to regain his 2015 form, and hopefully propel the Texans defensive secondary into elite circles once again.

With a revitalized defense after the signing of Tyrann Mathieu, along with the impending return of superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Texans could very well make a playoff run in the 2018 season.

 

 

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