Tyler Matakevich will never be an All-Pro linebacker. Far from it.
But when it comes to playing special teams, Dirty Red is as good as it gets. He reminded all the fans who wanted him cut, and the ones who still do, of that Sunday night.
Matakevich notched two more special teams tackles versus the Los Angeles Chargers. Each came on kick coverage and added to his already impressive total. Here are both of them.
On his first tackle, Matakevich runs through WR Geremy Davis, finds the ball, and makes the stop before Dez King can make it back to their 25. The ball may have even come out at the end, though the Chargers recovered without much of an issue.
Next one came in the third quarter. Maintain his gap, find the ball, and shed once the returner has declared where he’s going. Squeeze and finish with the tackle. To his credit, Cam Sutton also get in on the action too.
Few find the ball like he does. And you can back that up with the data. Here are the leaders in special teams tackles this year.
Combined Special Teams Tackles (2019)
Tyler Matakevich – 7
Jalen Reeves-Maybin – 7
JT Gray – 6
Solo Special Teams Tackles (2019)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin – 6
Tyler Matakevich – 5
Dylan Cole – 5
Drue Tranquill – 5
Combined Special Teams Tackles (2016-2019)
Michael Thomas – 30
Tyler Matakevich – 28
Deshazor Everett – 27
Solo Special Teams Tackles (2016-2019)
Tyler Matakevich – 25
Michael Thomas – 24
Deshzor Everett – 24
To recap. Matakevich is tied for the NFL lead in total special teams tackles this year, second in solo tackles, and since getting drafted in 2016, is second league-wide in total tackles and number one in solo stops.
By any definition, that’s an elite player.
It may be frustrating to see him kept primarily for special teams, though his sure tackling is an asset when forced into a defensive role as has happened twice already this season. But the reality is every team carries at least one or two special teams players. The AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens have Justin Bethel, one of the best special teamers of the last decade. And the New England Patriots, since fans love following in their footsteps, have employed Matthew Slater since 2008. He’s one of the NFL’s best coverage men of all-time. Safe to say it’s working out well for them.
In theory, it’s nice to think about the upside player who didn’t make the cut. The new face, Someone younger, faster, where the possibilities feel limitless. But in doing so, you sacrifice reality. The reality of cutting excellent coverage players who still have value in this world. No one realizes the importance of those players until you’re giving up 95 yard kick returns. And that’s why the team smartly has kept a guy like Matakevich around.