Phidarian Mathis has no problem being patient to earn NFL snaps


Draft night was one of the few times in recent memory for Phidarian Mathis in which he didn’t have to patiently wait. He was snagged in the second round, No. 47 overall, by the Commanders in an effort to shore up their defensive line, and possibly provide some long-term insurance at DT for the future.

Before night two of the draft, though, he’d gotten used to waiting. He redshirted during his tenure at Alabama, and though he got decent playing minutes as an undergrad, his senior season was the one that saw him truly break out.

Now as a Commander, he’ll have to wait some more before registering substantive snaps behind a stacked unit. Yet, he has no problem with that.

“I’m not a selfish guy,” Mathis said after Monday’s training camp session. “I had to wait [during] my time at Alabama. I was there five years, so I understand what it means to wait. But you can’t look at it like that. You gotta look at it like: just come to practice, get better every day and when your time comes, just be ready.”

Mathis has already made good on that mantra. He knows he’ll likely have to back up two proven vets, who just happen to be Crimson Tide alumni themselves — Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne — man the middle of the line. But when Mathis heard his name called during the first preseason game of Washington’s campaign, he was ready.


He notched two tackles in the Commanders’ 23-21 loss to Carolina, but what didn’t show up on the stat sheet might even be more appetizing for Jack del Rio’s defensive coaching staff. It wasn’t necessarily the fact that Mathis was able to make the tackle, but rather the ease and power he displayed while getting to the ball carrier.

Take, for example, these two clips of Mathis as he bowls over two Panthers’ offensive lineman to get to the rusher (and play close attention to how he manhandles Cade Mays, who is 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, in the first clip):

Mathis stands at a towering 6-foot-4, 312 pounds. His size and strength, developed while he was at Alabama, helped him increase his tackle total three-fold from his freshman to his senior season. He even bumped his season sack total up to 9.0 in 2021 from 1.5 the previous year, while recovering two fumbles.

“He’s a big, strong guy. He’s a young guy, he’s coming,” guard Wes Schweitzer said on Monday, who’s had the unenviable task of blocking Mathis throughout the summer. “He tries hard every day—that’s what you want. You don’t want higher draft picks to show up and just expect they’re gonna make it. I like his attitude, I like his work ethic. I think he’s gonna be a great player in this league.”

So, Mathis must continue waiting. He’ll be mentored by Allen and Payne, who he says help him ‘learn how to be a pro,’ in the meantime. It is also entirely possible that the Commanders drafted Mathis as an eventual replacement for Payne, who is entering the final year of his contract.

Mathis will continue to try to make the most of his oh-so-valuable preseason snaps. He felt good against Carolina and if that is any indication, he might just see the field more often as the weeks go by during the 2022 season, and especially beyond.

“It felt very good, just being in the stadium, making a few plays,” Mathis said of Saturday. “Just having fun—playing the game that I love with some great guys.”