Last year, Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews got off to a blazing start, registering 3 sacks in each of the teams first two games. Through two games his year, Matthews has been quiet on the sack front. Though he has gotten close to putting the quarterback on the ground more than a few times, he has been credited with one sack through eight quarters of play. (To be fair, he should have gotten at least partial credit on the sack of Cam Newton that was awarded to Desmond Bishop)
Yes, Matthews’ success in 2010, when he was the runner up for Defensive Player of the Year award, has certainly gotten him more attention early on in 2010. Both the Saints and the Panthers helped their right tackles out in numerous ways when it came to dealing with Matthews. But the third year linebacker out of USC has also seen his fair share of one on one matchups – and been mostly unable to capitalize.
Most surprising, perhaps, was Matthews inability to take advantage of Carolina’s undrafted rookie Byron Bell. Bell started at right tackle for the Panthers in place of the injured Jeff Otah, but looking at the tape, you would never guess that there was supposed to be a big drop off in pass protection. Matthews tried an array of moves against the rookie that didn’t end up yielding much in the way of results.
Now Matthews and the Packers head down to Chicago to face the Bears and Mike Martz’ beleaguered offense. Once again, the opposing teams right tackle, Gabe Carimi, will most likely not line up opposite Matthews. Instead, beyond-pedestrian Frank Omiyale will get the first crack at trying to slow down Matthews’ pursuit of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. We’ve all read the headlines – Martz’ offense is, once again, under scrutiny for the number of hits they have allowed on the quarterback. If history is any guide, Martz will change little and keep throwing the ball and keep leaving his tackles on islands to get more receivers out into pass routes.
Yes, Matthews has not practiced due to a quad injury he sustained in Carolina. But if he plays, he still needs to do to Omiyale what he did to Eagles’ right tackle Winston Justice in the Packers’ playoff victory in Philadelphia last year – beat him so consistently and so badly that he gets benched. There is no reason, outside of constant double teaming, that Matthews should do anything but make life miserable for Omiyale, Cutler and Martz.