3 Reasons to Thank Clay Matthews for the Packers Successful 2016 Draft

IMG_0850.JPGPete Dougherty put his finger on it. Outside linebacker is the most important position on the Packers’ defense.  The 2016 draft is as good a defensive draft as we have seen in years. And while most Packers fans are focused on the inside linebacker position. But the work of superstar Clay Matthews will make a difference in this year’s draft. Since Matthews moved inside, the Packers’ defense took a quantum leap forward, especially in the run game. But Mike McCarthy has explicitly stated his desire to get Matthews back out on the edge where he belongs. Matthews’ work inside, however, is about to pay dividends…here’s why.

1. Clay Matthews made the switch

When it comes to playing inside linebacker, Clay Matthews didn’t just pull it off…he nailed it. It is difficult (though not impossible) to move from the outside to the inside because while they are both linebacker positions, there is a significant difference, particularly in how an inside linebacker has to deal with so much traffic. Clay Matthews became a pro bowler inside. This is part of Clay’s growing legacy and one cannot overstate how amazing this guy is. And it is possible that we will be thanking him now and in the future for his leadership and ability to teach both inside and outside on the Packers’ defense.

The success that Clay Matthews had is something that doesn’t just affect the defense on the field, but also had a ripple effect outside the lines. Which leads us to number two.

2. By successfully making the switch, Matthews gave the coaching staff confidence

Imagine being Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers when the idea was posed to move Clay Matthews inside. Then change your shorts and look back on the decision with the benefit of hindsight. Yeah, it worked out pretty well but initially, that had to be one of the most difficult-to-manage decisions the Packers’ staff has made in a long time. It wasn’t choosing to keep a player or not…when you do that the player leaves if you don’t keep him. In this case, the coaching staff had to manage a superstar (though Clay is also a consummate pro) and then teach him a new position. There are many, many pitfalls in such a move and then to do it mid-season makes it extremely difficult.

But kudos to the Packers’ coaching staff and Matthews for making it work and making it work well. While it is great that the Packers are committed to moving Clay back outside, the coaching staff too, learned a lot during that process. Players like Clay Matthews are rare, but the confidence that the Packers’ coaches gained by working with Clay in this way may very well pay dividends in 2016.

3. This progress opens up the draft for the Packers in 2016

Clay Matthews and the confidence of the Packers’ coaching staff will now allow them to think outside theClay Matthews - Packer Emotion box in a draft that may see top inside linebackers come off the board before the Packers pick at 27. The work that the coaching staff did with Clay Matthews and the success they had means that the Packers have a lot of “slash” players available to them. And by “slash” player, I mean OLB/ILB and ILB/OLB. One has to believe that the Packers will draft heavy on defense in this draft and with linebacker being crucial, don’t be surprised if they end up with more than one. If they don’t get one in the first round, say they pick up Hunter Henry because all their coveted backers are off the board, they can still pick up an excellent prospect and be able to work him into whichever position is needed. Guys like Kentrell Brothers, Scooby Wright or Antonio Morrison will be interesting to watch but each comes with a unique skillset. The Packers should be able to work many of these players either inside or outside and with Julius Peppers’ situation still up in the air, that versatility could be critical.

Ideally, the Packers would get a true inside linebacker who can be an immediate impact player, but the work they did with Clay Matthews may pay dividends.

Thanks Clay!

Go Pack!

3 Reasons to Thank Clay Matthews for the Packers Successful 2016 Draft
Tagged on:             

3 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Thank Clay Matthews for the Packers Successful 2016 Draft

  • February 26, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Good article and you were absolutely correct on a few points but let’s be honest while I agree the coaching staff did a good job with Clay, you said it yourself he is an outstanding and unique talent so you can’t look at alot of these guys in the same light because there is only one Clay. You can’t expect anyone to be able to do what he did, how he did it. He is special. Not everyone else is.

  • February 28, 2016 at 9:44 am

    I might be one of the few people who think the defense will better if we leave Clay inside. I think the nfl game planning has found ILB to be a week spot either in pass coverage or run stop. A good run stopper looks like 6′ 0 or 6’1 and 255lbs and a good coverage backer looks like 6’2″ of 6’3″ and 235. As a result most defenses have one or the other as a weekness. Clay and very few other linebackers can do both. The college game has a high value on pass rusher so there are plenty of good ‘get after the qb’ ends and olbs available in the draft. I think it likely either Floyd or Lee drop to the pack in round one. Either of those guys show potential to be in the OLB rotation. Maybe Matthews stays inside and becomes our championship defense maker as Kuechly has done for the Panthers.

    • February 28, 2016 at 9:51 am

      Good point…and the strength of OLB’s and pass rushers that could convert to OLB’s make leaving him inside easier to deal with. It was a bit strange to me that McCarthy pulled out the promise to move him back outside so early. If we can’t replace him (and he’s a pro bowl player with sub 4.2 3 cone drill speed), we could quickly be back to watching running backs rip us a new one.

      An how many Luke Kuechlys are there in the world…???


Leave a Reply to jeff augustine Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *