Palazzolo’s Pitch: Versatile

Steve Palazzolo returns for a look at a versatile young corner, an impossible task, and a missed assignment among other notes in this week's Pitch.

| 2 years ago

Palazzolo’s Pitch: Versatile

Pitch-WK14Tyrann Mathieu: DROY Candidate

One of the more interesting prospects in last year’s draft, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Tyrann Mathieu had a tumultuous off-the-field career at LSU and subsequently sat out all of last season.

Even without the off-field issues, Mathieu was one of the more polarizing prospects as his unique ability didn’t scream “first round cornerback.” While some analysts saw him as such, others felt he was more of a slot cornerback/free safety prospect and not worthy of such lofty draft status. While the SCB/FS assessment is very much correct, his versatility has shined throughout his rookie season and he’s making the Cardinals look smart for taking a chance on him last April.

Perhaps the most common comparison for Mathieu is former Minnesota Vikings CB Antoine Winfield. It’s a comparison I often used for Mathieu as he fits the “tough, quick guy” mold discussed here.


Watch Mathieu make a quick read and blow up the bubble screen.


Mathieu is proficient in coverage in the slot, but he’s not afraid to stick his nose in against the run. He’s also very good as a blitzer, something he showed during his time at LSU. Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has recognized Mathieu’s unique talent and he’s been deployed a number of different ways:

Position Snaps
Slot 497
FS 109
SS 107

Just as the scouting reports suggested, Mathieu has played well in all aspects of the game:

Overall Run Defense Pass Rush Coverage
14.3 3.5 2 6.3

Currently our No. 2 cornerback, Mathieu’s all-around game has led to his +14.3 overall grade. His +3.5 grade against the run ranks fifth among cornerbacks while his +2.0 pass rush grade ranks second. His eight stops in the run game and 3.3 percent Run Stop Percentage are both tied for fifth, while his Pass Rush Productivity of 23.7 is tops at the position. Not only has he been successful rushing the passer, but he’s also leading all cornerbacks with 39 blitz attempts. See him below, entering the screen from the left:


Again, the Cardinals are making good use of his talents.

When you add it all up, you’re not getting a classic “shutdown” cornerback in the Darrelle Revis mold, but Mathieu’s ability to play over the slot, provide linebacker-like run support and rush the passer from all angles, make him one of the league’s most versatile defensive players.

Those Antoine Winfield comps are looking good. So far.

Time to Scrap This Play?

OK, maybe not the play itself, but this is an example of not putting the players in the best position to succeed. Two weeks in a row, the Patriots got caught in an unfavorable alignment, leaving center Ryan Wendell with a near-impossible block. Granted, in both instances, he should have received help from the offensive tackle, but asking him to get out and block the 3-technique is asking for trouble.

The idea on this play action fake is to pull the guard and give the illusion that the Patriots are running their staple power run play.

Take a look:


On this play, Star Lotulelei is the 3-technique and Wendell is responsible for picking him up, but as mentioned, left tackle Nate Solder has to give him at least a little help in order to buy time to cover the unfavorable shade. Instead, Solder blocks the end man on the line and Wendell has little chance to block the defensive rookie of the year candidate.


A near-identical play the following week, this time to the opposite side of the formation. Wendell is charged with blocking DT Kevin Vickerson, but again help is needed from RT Will Svitek. Svitek’s mistake is more glaring as instead of helping Wendell, he doubles the end man who should be handled by tight end Rob Gronkowski. Once again Wendell was hung out to dry and Brady ended up on the ground.

Someone Got the Wrong Play Call…

…and I think it was rookie guard Chance Warmack. The Titans are running a counter to the right, with left guard Andy Levitre leading the way. Well, apparently Warmack wanted to run it to the left with him leading out in front. Whoops


It’s actually a pretty nice play by Levitre to recover and still kick out LB Erik Walden on the edge.


News and Notes

Podcast Update

I joined David Tuchman for the PFF’s weekly “In the Trenches” podcast. Scroll down on the homepage and give it a listen.

Around the Site This Week

–  One of my favorite articles on the site is the Stock Report. Which players have made the most improvement from Quarter 2 to Quarter 3 of the season? Your AFC and NFC Stock Reports.

–  And here’s the Quarter 3 Team of the Month.

–  Your weekly special teams update from Neil Hornsby.

–  Three to Focus On for all Week 14 games.

–  Secret Superstars for Week 13.

–  Where does Mathieu rank in the Race for Rookie of the Year?



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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

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