After lining up all over the field during his run with the Arizona Cardinals, "The Honey Badger" will operate purely as a safety in Houston. At least for now.
"We talked about that when we were speaking to him during the process,"Texans coach Bill O'Brien said, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. "We told him that we really do value -- as you know -- we value versatility, but we also understand that a guy needs to have basically one home. He needs to understand and master that one home, which is safety for Tyrann."
Mathieu morphed into an early career sensation with the Cardinals, lining up as a safety, cornerback and linebacker on any given down. His rare versatility gave Arizona a moveable element of surprise that kept offenses guessing. Teams league-wide tried to find their own version of Mathieu, but -- when healthy -- he operated in a class of his own.
O'Brien doesn't want to limit Mathieu, saying that "maybe he does something else" in "different packages," but not at the expense of allowing him to grow roots at his primary position.
"When you watch him in these sessions that we've had, you can see a guy that's very instinctive, that moves well and that can probably do a few different things for us," O'Brien reiterated, "but we're going to start him at safety and let him hone in on that."
Mathieu is comfortable with the plan, citing Houston's role for him as a major selling point after being released in March by the Cardinals.
"I think this is why I chose to play for the Texans," Mathieu said. "I had a lot on my plate. I couldn't really focus on really one position. I think a lot of times coaches may ask me to strictly rely on my instincts, but am I really getting better at football? I think those were questions I needed to answer and I think [coordinator] Romeo [Crennel] answered those questions for me."
This makes sense, on paper, as Mathieu absorbs the intricacies of Houston's defense. Ultimately, the Texans should -- and will -- find ways to best utilize one of the game's most versatile defensive backs.