There has been a lot of talk in Packernation about second year players. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Davante Adams, and Richard Rodgers all made an impact last season and if they take a leap this year, could be special. Adams in particular has Aaron Rodgers raving after OTA’s, and at 6’2 and 216 pounds, Adams could add yet another receiving threat – this time, throughout the season. Last year we saw Adams explode when teams like the Patriots and Cowboys paid too much attention to Nelson and Cobb. Richard Rodgers had some good games too and Ha Ha shored up the safety position and came up huge in what eventually ended up being the ‘loss that should never have been’ against the Seahawks.
But there is one second year player that I am more excited to see than any of these guys and no, it is not Abby or Linsley or Bradford. It’s not Jeff Janis or Khyri Thornton or Demetri Goodson either.
The second-year player that I am most excited to see hit the field come September is Clay Matthews at inside linebacker. Wait! Wait! Don’t go! I know Clay is not a second year player but hear me out because he kindof is…I mean, he himself said he felt like a rookie in OTA’s because he was still learning.
For an outside pass-rush specialist to take on the role of inside linebacker is no easy task. Yeah, they’re both linebackers but for Clay to come in and improve the run defense at a new position shows that this guy is not just good…not just really good…but Clay Matthews is elite. Just this week, Richard Sherman of the Seahawks was yappin’ about how they are the best in the league because they don’t move guys around or ask guys who are good at one spot to play elsewhere. Well just wait a player goes down Richard, and we will see about that. Or, like the Packers, wait until the defense has a notable deficiency…when teams have to use their best players in new positions is when those players prove whether they are truly elite. Matthews did just that last season.
Now Matthews has had a full off-season to fine-tune his instincts at the position and Dom Capers has had an off-season to ponder how to best utilize him. If you are on the Packers’ season schedule in the “opponent” column…that’s just scary. It has been widely noted that Clay had 8.5 sacks from the inside position last season. This year, depending on how many snaps he gets from each spot, he could get more. Time is now on his side.
And then there’s the fact that Clay Matthews now seems to have embraced the position and even seems to be enjoying it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but last season (early on) it didn’t seem to me that Clay was entirely on board with the change. Now, he’s a professional and he showed that with his play but somewhere along the line, he seems to have started enjoying rushing from new angles and giving O-lines nightmares Saturday night and headaches Sunday morning. Great players love being in position to make great plays and Clay will presumably have more of them this year, especially if some of the developmental guys take a step.
I can’t wait to see the Packers’ defense this year! I know there are some question marks but with the return of BJ Raji and Clay Matthews lining up and playing instinctive football wherever they put him makes me think we will be fine up front…and that is where it all starts. Everybody is talking about how dangerous our offense will be if Devante Adams takes “a leap”. Just think how dangerous our defense will be if second-year ILB Clay Matthews takes one.