Few college players received the level of attention that Tavon Austin and Tyrann Mathieu over the last couple seasons. Austin wowed the world with his wheels in Dana Holgorsen's Air Raid offense. Mathieu was a standout defensive back for some LSU powerhouses before legions of newspaper columnists buried him in hot takes.
Austin and Mathieu take the field together this week when the St. Louis Rams host the Arizona Cardinals in the season opener. And they'll be seeing plenty of each other, since the Cardinals have shown a tendency to use Mathieu on quick, shifty receivers.
The Rams have spent some time watching Mathieu on tape.
"Very instinctive, good player, plays way bigger than his size, got good coverage skills," Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "He and Tavon have had some battles in the past. It'll be fun to watch them go at it."
Mathieu has mostly worked a section of the field that the Rams' offense has big plans for: right down the middle.
"He's been normally in one spot," Schottenheimer said. "He's playing inside in the nickel. But again, a good football player and a guy that we'll know where he is at all times."
Much was made about the prefect fit for Mathieu in Arizona, but it was usually in the context of him being paired with his mentor, Patrick Peterson. Such is life in a world where Peter King is the Godfather of football writing. But the pairing makes more sense because a strong corner like Peterson on the field gives the Cardinals coaches flexibility in how they use Mathieu, be it as a guy sitting back playing the ball or matched up against joystick offensive weapons.
That's good for Rams. Having threats like Austin and Jared Cook taxing the middle of the field, with Chris Givens operating on the outside and likely to draw plenty of coverage from Peterson, is likely to result in the mismatches Schottenheimer wants and Sam Bradford needs.