Rookie Edition: Mathis is Set Up for Success | Washington Commanders

Updated: Jun 5


By Adam Aniba


Washington and Ron Rivera surprised many fans by selecting Phidarian Mathis with their 2nd round pick (#47 overall). Mathis' reputation as a fierce run-stuffer and lane clogger stood out during his first 3 seasons at Alabama, but turned it up in '21.


Mathis wore #48 at Alabama to honor the memory of his cousin, Tyrell Cameron who passed away after suffering a broken neck during a high school football game, while returning a punt. The Tide defensive lineman was devastated by the death of his cousin and has fueled him to take his game to the next level.


Phidarian Mathis

6'4" 310 lbs | DT | Alabama

Career (46 games) 129 tak (59 solo), 10.5 sacks, 16 TFL, 3 FF & 3 FR

2021 (11 games) 53 tak (20 solo), 9 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 2 PD, 1 FF & 2 FR


Quick Background

Mathis was a highly touted 4-star prospect from Monroe, LA while attending Neville HS. He was an absolute force during his '16 senior season, leading his team with 41 tackles (12 tak for a loss), 7 sacks with 6 QB hurries. The Neville defensive lineman lead his team to 3 consecutive Class 4A state championships, earning 1st-team All State. As the #2 rated prospect in the state of Louisiana and #13 DT in the nation, Mathis garnered attention from Florida, Georgia, TCU, LSU and Alabama just to name a few


Mathis ultimately committed to Alabama, over his home state LSU Tigers surprising many. Alabama HC NIck Saban would redshirt in Mathis in '17, in addition to a slew of others due to the talent on the Crimson Tide depth chart. In '18, Mathis recorded 18 tackles and 1 fumble recovery through 15 games. Mathis was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team after his first year at Alabama,


His role as a space eater, occupying double-teams (only 1.5 sacks in three seasons), led to a less than desirable stat line for the former 4-star recruit.


Fast forward to '21 and Mathis was named an indefinite team captain prior to the start of the season. He displayed the locker room leadership that left a lasting impression on Tide coaches. By the conclusion of the season, Mathis showed the form that gained him national attention during his time at Neville. His 9 sacks, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recovery led to a 2nd-Team SEC selection.


Mathis' patience paid off in '21, after previously contributing in a more rotational role. The Crimson Tide DT does all the dirty work, but his career season led to a Senior Bowl invite.


Senior Bowl executive Director Jim Nagy was impressed with the Alabama defensive tackles performance during the week in Mobile.

"I've seen a lot of good defensive linemen coming out of Tuscaloosa, they're pretty good at every position up there. Every year there's like a new guy, and Phil is the next one. He's not just a two down player in our opinion. Every team is looking for guys who can get up field and rush the passer and affect the quarterback from the inside... and Phil can do that."

PROS

  • Displays an effective bull-rush

  • Impressive combo of length & athleticism for the position (Wingspan 83.5″)

  • Relentless ball chaser with a nonstop motor

  • Active hands with an effective swim move

  • Maintains gap integrity and excels stopping inside runs

  • Improved overall ability as a double team-splitter and lane clogger


CONS

  • Plays too upright at times, needs to lower pad level

  • Lunges too often, causing him to get knocked off the ball

  • Needs to show more patience and let plays develop, particularly on outside runs

  • Limited as a pass rusher (showed improvement in '21)

  • Struggled at times when forced to redirect and can get caught flat footed

  • Needs to disengage quicker and show more consistency on down blocks



Early Contribution

The 24 year old had an impressive season for the Tide, but it's clear that his maturity and experience fit Rivera and Mayhew's blueprint. Adding former captains like Mathis, who exceeded expectations, speaks to just how far the former Tide DT can go. His 9 sacks and many of his 10.5 tackles for a loss, came on second effort plays, while taking on double teams.


Mathis is familiar with his new Commanders teammates John Allen and Daron Payne, after learning behind them at Alabama. Developing chemistry shouldn't be an issue, especially with Allen's background as an effective mentor. Mathis understands and embraces his role as a run stuffer, but displayed the ability last season to be much more.


Mathis walks into an ideal situation along the defensive line and is set up for success. His first year role will likely involve sub-package appearances on goal line and short yardage situations. His ability as a run stuffer and lane clogger, could garner more snaps than anticipated early though.


Although Washington exercised the 5th year option for Payne, early reports have been that extending him seems unlikely with the focus on the Terry McLaurin LTD and possible Montez Sweat extension on the horizon. Washington lost Tim Settle in free agency and released Matt Ioannidis, hurting their overall depth along the interior defensive line. Allen and Payne should get the bulk of the snaps at defensive tackle, but Mathis will see plenty of opportunities in pre-season to showcase his ability in game situations.


*Games Watched- 9/4/21 vs Miami, 9/18 vs UF, 9/25 vs S.Miss, 10/2 vs Ole Miss, 10/9 vs Texas A&M, 10/16 vs Miss St, 10/23 vs Tenn, 11/6 vs LSU, 11/20 vs Ark, 11/27 vs Aub, 12/4 vs UGA, 12/31 vs UCin (Cotton Bowl) & 1/1/22 vs UGA (CFB Championship)


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