Tyrann Mathieu will make his season debut in 2021 in Baltimore after missing the Browns game with, presumably, fatigue from his Sept. 1 Covid-19 designation. The defense rallied admirably, peppering in a mix of base 4-3 to bone up against the Cleveland run game. Juan Thornhill and Daniel Sorensen played respectably and didn’t embarrass themselves, which is the big hope when you’re replacing a superstar on the back end of your defense. When the Chiefs went into the dime, Armani Watts also entered the lineup for 14 snaps.
That said, the Chiefs will welcome their team leader back onto the field with open arms. So much of the Chiefs’ defense is constructed around Mathieu’s play, and he will be relied upon heavily by his coaches and teammates.
As with Clark, it seems unfair to say Mathieu “needs to step up” in his first game of the season, but really it’s more in the context of how sorely he is needed, and in a big way. Lamar Jackson will have heavy pressure to perform in this game without a healthy offensive line. Also consider that he has a dinged-up #1 wide receiver Marquise Brown, and the possibility that tight end Mark Andrews will be called in to pass block on occasion in order to help out with Chris Jones.
That means we can expect Jackson to scramble more, and there isn’t a team in the NFL that can stop Jackson all game long in the ground game. Jackson will get his. He’s rushed for over 1,000 yards in the each of the last two seasons, and remarkably was held under 50 yards just five times in that span.
A healthy, active Mathieu affords Spagnuolo the fullness of his playbook, and we are all here for that.