There is no question that Clay Matthews is a special player. Not only is he a fantastic OLB in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme, but for a couple years now he manned the ILB position and the the Packers improved against the run. Matthews, for his part, has been a pro-bowler at both positions, and that is the kind of versatility that few in the specialized NFL can claim. But Clay Matthews does have one weakness when you analyze his performance, and that weakness factors in with his move back to the outside. According to Pro Football Focus, Matthews only recorded
a pressure in (average) every 137 pass rushes when he used the bull rush in his first two seasons. This is due to the fact that Clay’s strength is is speed and ability to bend. Fast forward to the potential pressure Matthews could bring (one every 15.8 rushes from the outside) and a couple things come to light.
1. Clay’s time on the inside improves his pass rush
Having played almost two full seasons at the inside (yeah, he moved around) position, Clay Matthews’ bull rush has improved. Playing the inside means going against guards in limited space which inevitably requires tweaking one’s skillset. Clay Matthews did that and he is a better overall player for it. Guards tend to be heavier though less athletic and while the Packers did everything they could to make space for Clay to use his speed against said guards, Matthews couldn’t rely on that on every play. Clay’s success at the inside position is a testament to the fact that he is one of the best all-around defenders in the league right now, and…he brings it on every play.
The Packers pledge to move Clay back outside means that an elite edge rusher, now has tweaked his repertoire to adjust the middle game. This should have tackles quaking in their boots. Matthews may be a year older, but he is two years smarter than he ever was before and he is still playing peak ball when healthy. Matthews has made otherwise excellent pass protectors such as Joe Staley look…frankly…silly. His move to the outside is exciting, not just because he has an expanded skillset but also:
2. Ground Control to Major Tom
This new and improved Clay Matthews now moves back to the outside. Here he is most natural, here he is most comfortable, here he is most effective. As noted above, Clay
When the 2016 Packers roll out onto the field with Clay Matthews back on the outside, they do it with the understanding that Matthews is where he belongs. They also do it having an off-season focus on replacing him on the inside. Good times.
OK PackerNation, your turn. In the interactive over/under below, let the world know whether you would take the over or the under on Clay Matthews sack total for 2016. Last year, Matthews’ sack count was down but he is only a year removed from an eleven sack year and he is back in his natural position where he averaged 10 a year pre-2014. Do you think he will be over or under 10 sacks in 2016? This is not for the faint of heart so if you are one of those who are unwilling to put your opinion out there, don’t bother with any “it’s too early to tell” comments or anything like that. We all know such talk is for wusses….make a choice! And SHARE to DARE your friends to pick also! 🙂