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Clay Matthews Among Others in need of a Bounce back Season

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Clay Matthews Among Others in need of a Bounce back Season

Bruised, battered and mediocre would be a few words to properly sum up the 2016 season for Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

Since suffering a hamstring injury early in the season and missing three games because of it, then spraining the AC joint in his left shoulder a week after returning, the hopes haven't been very high for the eighth-year linebacker heading into his ninth. His sub-optimal 2016 campaign proved as a minor setback for the wounded Matthews.

The hope heading into 2017 is that his minor setback will pave the way to a major comeback. The Packers could use it at the second level of their defense.

The narrative that Matthews is "soft," meanwhile, can be put to bed. 

Dealing with an onslaught of injuries last season led to the untimely chagrin of fans across all social media platforms, who fail to realize that Matthews played through his sprained shoulder late in the season during the Packers' winning streak as well as into the playoffs. Original speculation was that Matthews' shoulder would require surgery at the end of the season. So far, that hasn't been the case.

Matthews may have even gotten a sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery on the same play in the Wild Card game against the Giants.

It was the first injury-riddled regular season for Matthews since 2013 (when the entire roster was seemingly obliterated) when he fractured his thumb. He missed a month of the regular season with the thumb injury, returned and re-injured the same thumb. It led to Matthews missing five games that year. Initially, it was most absences in a season for Matthews until 2016 came around.

Matthews also dealt with a hamstring injury a year prior that kept him out for four games. He's only played a full 16-game season twice in his career - 2014 and 2015. Coincidentally, the only two years in which Matthews played inside linebacker for more than half of each season. He was inside full-time in 2015.

Many think the proper course to take with Matthews would be to swap him back inside during his veteran years; a place that one year ago, others would've been opposed to doing. Now, lacking speed and explosiveness off the edge at 30 years old, soon-to-be 31, decreasing the workload may help extend Matthews' career.

Of course, there are others who believe the best course of action is trading Matthews, which is a story for another day.

The packers need linebacker help more than ever, and if that means kicking Matthews inside to do the work on selected downs and pairing him with Jake Ryan, take that road. They won't get the same Matthews who racked up 23.5 sacks during his first two years in the league, but any form of pressure on the opposing quarterback can prove worthwhile.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (19) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

dobber's picture

"Many think the proper course to take with Matthews would be to swap him back inside during his veteran years; a place that one year ago, others would've been opposed to doing."

Whereas Matthews playing on the inside in 2014-15 was a function of injury and poor ILB play, I think that him playing on the inside in 2017 will be as a result of finding suitable pass-rushers to replace him on the outside. I think the Packers have credible ILBs at the moment. If they don't find effective players to relieve Matthews on the outside, I just don't see him playing inside very much.

jww061356's picture

I think the best thing the Packers can do is what they have talked about--move him around. Play him all over the front, and don't let an opposing offense get a bead on him. You give him better chances to create pressure, and you make it harder to scheme against him when he is not starting from the same point all the time. Maybe it makes him more effective and preserves his health a bit? I have to believe he is going to get more favorable match ups if he is not constantly matched up against a LT-typically the best athlete on the OL.

OrganLeroy's picture

Completely agree, a healthy Mathews has to be accounted for and he has the talent to create inside pass rush as well. All indications are that he will be moved around as much as possible to create the best mismatches for the defense. I really hope our 1st rounder is a pass rusher who can be an effective roatation guy to improve our depth. Clearly both Elliott and Fackrell have to step it up this year.

Bearmeat's picture

I've made my feelings on CM3 very clear over the past 2 years. I don't need to restate them. I will say that I really hope he proves me wrong and gets 15+ sacks this year.

Tarynfor12's picture

The genetic trait that was attached to Matthews for him to be a possible elite player has been proved otherwise in this case at least. His best play came while in company of highly efficient players along side of him and thus shown him not to be elite but a struggle to rate him above average easily. Whether it's the injuries, the inferred use of steroids or the inferred stopping of the use, or he is at times is as predictable in his pass rush as the offense of McCarthy has been alleged. The level of play needed from him at any linebacker position is huge if one wishes to believe his play since his contract was not because of lower ability that first was thought.

MarkinMadison's picture

Wow. After nineteen years of schooling, I found this paragraph to be difficult to read.

Tundraboy's picture

With a Jesuit ,liberal arts education,full semesters of Shakespeare,I struggle reading her comments. Challenging for sure.

Tundraboy's picture

Deleted

OrganLeroy's picture

Sorry, but you're completely wrong on all counts!

idgafkurt's picture

Fairly likely this is the last year Clay Matthews dons the Green & Gold. With an 11 million cap-hit in 2018, and zero dead-money if they cut him, it's a pretty easy decision to let him go considering his age and recent level of production.

Further, I see no reason to disrupt the development of Blake Martinez by forcing Clay in the middle.

Let's hope they can get 6-7 sacks out of him this year and move onto a top pick like TJ Watt, T. McKinley or T. Williams, etc, as their next premier pass rusher moving forward...

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I don't think it would be that disruptive, since Capers' defense isn't so much a straight 3-4 as it is a series of packages, ranging from 2-5 to 3-4 to 4-3 to 3-3-5 and so forth--with different groupings across all of them.

Moving Clay around should be easy, especially given his general reduction in snaps.

Bert's picture

Seemed like CM was getting beat at the snap last year. Just looked like he has lost the explosive first step off the ball and he ended up standing upright and playing patty-cake with the LT on most snaps. He should be more efficient at ILB but I don't think he's quick enough anymore to be an impactful player that coordinators will have to scheme against.

packerbackerjim's picture

His hammy issues takes away his big cat quickness. Depending on his off-season conditioning, I expect a bounce back season. When healthy, he's the best playmaker on the D.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Great post. Clay's production almost entirely depends on healthy hammies. With them, he's explosive. Without, he's a liability.

He's not that old or worn. It's strictly a health issue.

canadapacker's picture

Last year - age and injuries as well as scheme (Peppers wasnt as effective and couldnt play as many snaps) all kind of caught up with CM3. I think that with another year of development of the inside linebackers, the strength and diversity of Matthews might show up. If he doesnt come to camp with some jump, I would fully expect that he gets moved inside especially if the outside linebackers that TT will draft show a lot of promise. It may not be at the start of the season but a few games in.

Tundraboy's picture

Like a few other players, who the hell knows which Matthews shows up this year.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

It almost seems like Rodgers, Bakhtiari, Nelson, Daniels, and our safeties are the only sure things on this shaky roster.

porupack's picture

I understand disappointment when fans expect a superstar, but CM is still a top playmaker on the team. CM can't be measured on his stats alone, but with Perry on the other side, and push by Daniels; does the unit rank high? Then CM is a key piece. He is every bit as productive as JPeppers, when he came to Green Bay, and everyone was thrilled with an aging Peppers at 75% of his prime. Its all about expectations. I agree his salary made his expectations very high, and he hasn't met them, and a restructure is in order. But I hope this talk about release disappears by about the 4th quarter of opening game when he forces a sack-fumble. Good pass rushers are statistically about 1 per 2-3 teams.

Donster's picture

Injuries at the MLB position will play a big part where CM plays, if even he stays healthy. I agree that Capers has to keep moving him around to get the most out of him. But, I still feel that Capers is the biggest weak spot in the Green Bay defense. It has been that way for a number of consecutive years now. Yes, once in a while he comes up with a good scheme against a certain opponent. But his stale defensive system is a liability. No team fears the GB defense, and that alone gives them confidence that they can win. A healthy CM, with the proper scheme, can help him have a productive year. I don't see it happening.

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