With the combine now officially underway, Washington EDGE rusher Joe Mathis took time out of his vigorous training schedule to sit down with me for an exclusive interview. Mathis is one of the more slept on edge rushers in this class, and we discussed the combine of course, his preferred position at the next level, what he’ll tell teams that may question his ability to stay healthy, and more. Some video analysis is also included. Enjoy.
We’re here with Washington EDGE rusher Joe Mathis. Thanks for joining us today Joe.
Mathis: I appreciate your time sir.
My pleasure. With the on-field combine drills about to get underway, how have you been preparing both physically and mentally?
Mathis: I’ve been working hard preparing for the combine since November. I start my day off at 6 am with my workouts and I don’t come home until 7 pm at night. A regular day consists of physical therapy, massages, speed training, hyper-chamber [Hyperbaric oxygen therapy], I’m doing it all really. I’m just preparing to prove myself. I feel like my film speaks for itself and I’m only going to get better than I was during my senior year. They haven’t seen my best yet because that’s still to come.
It sounds like you’ve been working really hard. Staying on topic with the combine, is there a drill in particular that you’re anticipating you’ll perform especially well in?
Mathis: I feel like I’m going to impress teams in all of the drills, but I feel great about the L-Drill [3-cone drill] in particular. But the plan is to surprise and impress them with every drill really, and position work as well.
Is there a drill that you’re not looking forward to?
Mathis: No, I’m looking forward to all of them. I can’t wait to show everybody what I’m capable of, and that includes my results in every drill. I’m really confident in my ability so there isn’t a drill that scares me.
Every year, we hear reports regarding some strange questions being asked the prospects by a scout or general manager. How will you handle some of those weird, non-football related questions?
Mathis: It depends on the question. I feel like I’m not gonna’ freeze up in anything they ask me though. I’m just gonna’ answer whatever questions they have for me truthfully. Whatever it is they want to ask me, oh okay [laughs]. I’ll just answer truthfully.
Let’s talk a little about your pass rush arsenal. Is there a specific move that you feel is your best? And what do you prefer to counter that with if your initial move is stopped?
Mathis: I really don’t have a favorite pass rush move. Certain guys, they think about what they’re gonna’ do pre-snap, but me, I like to show you that I’m really aggressive, especially early on in the game. If you begin the game aggressively, you’ll start to see them anchor down. I might act like I’m gonna’ bull rush, but then I hit them with a speed rush instead. It’s all about getting my opponent off-balance. They might think I’m about to come with a power move, but I’m really just letting them lose momentum.
Speaking of mind games as a pass rusher, Mathis was clearly in the head of his opponent here, who lunges out of his stance over-aggressively, allowing Mathis to win this snap and make the tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Spoken like a true pass-rushing threat. Regarding your fit at the next level, do you prefer to be a stand-up 3-4 OLB type, or a 4-3 DE with his hand in the dirt?
Mathis: I prefer playing in a 3-4 defense. I think that I’m really good at reading the game while standing up, and not just the offensive tackle I’m going up against, but the whole offensive line and even the wide receivers. Reading the running back’s body language is a big factor as well. If they’re on their toes or on their heels, I can tell if it’s a pass or a run. I like standing up so I can be aware and I can see the play happening before it develops.
Mathis has shown his ability to read the game while standing up. Here, he’s not fooled by the fake, and his pressure forces a throwaway.
Mathis has also proven to be an effective pass-rushing threat as a 3-4 OLB. Here, he shows off the athletic ability necessary to turn the corner, and finishes the play with an impressive shoe-string sack.
Mathis may prefer to play standing up, and I too believe that’s the right fit for him, but his game tape also shows his ability to be an effective pass rusher with his hand in the dirt as well.
If you prefer to stand up as a 3-4 OLB, you must be confident in your coverage abilities and playing in space. What traits do you feel you possess that translate well to coverage?
Mathis: I’ve played OLB since high school. It’s not hard, I actually feel that it’s easier than playing on the defensive line. It’s all about timing in your drops and stuff. You have to get your space, but dropping in coverage is not something that I find difficult. You have to be on the go. You’re not in the trenches like you are on the line, you have to go out and chase a fast opponent, and maybe that’s in the slot. It’s not hard for me. I know they’re going to be faster at the next level, but I’m preparing myself for that.
I feel like I’ve shown my ability to play in space on film. Against Oregon for example, I have some good tape playing in space. There was this reverse play in particular that I completely shut down. It’s really gotta’ be something that you want to do. It’s not about can he or can’t he. Can he do it? You gotta’ want to play in space, you gotta’ want to be able to run with your opponent, and I love to do so.
How would you respond to a scout or general manager that might question your health throughout your collegiate career?
Mathis: I’m not gonna’ hide away from the fact that I got injured. I feel like the reason I got injured early on in my career was because I was playing a three-technique spot at 240 pounds. I’m really strong but that took some wear and tear on my body. I was getting double teamed by guys that are 320 pounds. I’m just gonna’ be honest with them, yeah I got injured. It is what it is, it’s part of the game.
I know for a fact that I’m training my body right now so that I won’t get injured again. I’ll just be truthful with them, that’s all I can do.
Definitely, face their questions head on. Who would you say was the best offensive tackle you faced during your time at Washington?
Mathis: Probably [Jake] Fisher from Oregon. He was a tackle for Oregon that got drafted back in my sophomore year at Washington. I would say that he was the toughest offensive linemen I ever went up against. He would be the one that sticks out in my memory. I feel like if I went against him right now though, I’d get him [laughs].
He’s a good one for sure. I think we’ve taken up enough of your time Joe. Thanks for joining us. In closing, why should a team invest a draft pick into Joe Mathis?
Mathis: I feel like they should invest in me because I’m hungrier than a lot of guys my age. I have a wife and a son that are depending on me. I don’t take this as just a game, I take it personal. I take every snap personal. They’re going to get a guy that’s willing to get better every day. I don’t take plays off and I go full speed to the ball every time. They’re going to get a player that’s ready for anything. I’ve been through a lot of adversity and that’s nothing new to me. I know adversity and I know how to overcome it.
They’re going to get a guy that’s ready to play from day one and won’t have any off the field issues. I’ve simplified my life by getting married and having a child. It’s all about family for me, family and football. They’re going to get a guy that’s focused and won’t be satisfied by just getting there. I’m not interested in being famous. I’m trying to build a legacy for my son. I don’t want him getting into gangs and stuff. I want him to grow up watching his dad be successful so he has no other choice but to want to be successful as well.
I’m going to the NFL to make a statement and to make my name known.