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Matthews' Resurgence off to a Promising Start

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Matthews' Resurgence off to a Promising Start

Just over a week ago, Clay Matthews said that if he were on the field and healthy for a full 16-game season, good things would happen.

Two weeks into the 2017 regular season, he certainly hasn't disappointed or proven that statement to be false.

Ever since playing 43 of 49 total defensive snaps against the Seattle Seahawks in week one and 52 of 58 versus the Atlanta Falcons a week later, Matthews has been a disruptive force off the edge despite many believing his age is beginning to hinder him.

If anything, Matthews, 31, is playing at a higher level than he has at any point in the last three seasons. Unfortunately, his potentially best game in the last three seasons resulted in a losing effort for the Packers.

"We knew what type of environment we were coming into," Matthews said following Sunday night's loss to the Falcons. "We didn't do enough. That's ultimately what it comes down to. I know it's one game, but it's unfortunate, especially when you want to test yourself against the elite."

Perhaps the Packers defense as a whole looked far from elite, but Matthews was hovering in a different ballpark during his extensive playing time -- he looked like the Matthews of old.

Clay Matthews (52) putting pressure on Matt Ryan (2). (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

En route to finishing second on the defense with five tackles, he also had two tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He managed to get to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan consistently and register three quarterback hits. It was the first time Matthews recorded more than a single sack in a game since week five of 2015 against the Rams.

He did enough to earn some positive acknowledgment from Pro Football Focus, who had him as one of the top-five Packers grades after the loss.

The numbers may not show it, but Matthews hasn't had any problems with displaying speed off the edge in these first two games. He was in Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's face last week and Ryan's on Sunday. However, just being in the same vicinity of the opposing quarterback won't earn you league-wide praise. Finishing plays has been an evident problem for Matthews the last two seasons.

While free agent acquisition Ahmad Brooks remains in the concussion protocol -- but on the verge of being removed -- you can expect Matthews to see a good majority of defensive snaps against the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday. Brooks' absence is a significant reason why both Matthews and fellow pass rusher Nick Perry have seen almost every snap this season.

Brooks' signing was expected to give the Packers more rotation at outside linebacker and with fourth-round draft pick Vince Biegel still on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, they certainly could use it. Once he returns, the Packers will have more freedom defensively to move Matthews into various spots in the front seven, including at his former inside linebacker spot where he was featured almost exclusively during the last eight games of the 2014 campaign.

The Packers have also experimented with using Matthews in the dime defense, a position currently occupied by inside linebacker Joe Thomas.

Matthews played just 479 snaps on defense last year, a career low that he presumably hopes never to come remotely close to again. Now, he's well on his way to doubling his 2016 snap count, it's just a matter of keeping himself upright, just like he said.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV and a contributor/analyst for the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (22) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

KenEllis's picture

I agree that Clay played well last Sunday night in Atlanta.

It is also true that the Falcons starting RT left the game in the 1st Q after suffering a concussion and Clay did his damage against a backup.

Hope Clay stays healthy and produces, even against staring Tackles.

The TKstinator's picture

Maybe those Tackles are staring at Clay's flowing mane rather than blocking him.

zoellner25's picture

If they keep him in the middle and use Perry and Brooks outside, he'll be better. Fackrell is close to bagging groceries.

rdent's picture

I wonder who will be released when Biegel is activated?

dobber's picture

I'm guessing an OL...and I think you mean IF Biegel is activated. Don't get me wrong, I want him to play. It means I don't have to explain my FFL team name (Flock of Biegels) as much.

flackcatcher's picture

dobber, as you pointed out, "IF Biegel is activated"... If everything works out, and the broken bone in his foot passes, if he can get back into football shape, if he knows the defensive playbook, then maybe, MAYBE he'll get into the OLB rotation for the last 6 regular season games. (SIGH) I want to see him too.....

Dzehren's picture

The sack master was released by Dallas- Jayrone Elliot

MITM's picture

I really think we need to focus on putting our BEST 11 on the field defensively, obviously when we are at full strength. We have the personnel to stand our ground in a base 3-4 defense. To me that best 11 would be as follows and again this is in a base 3-4 and based off of the first 2 games.

NT - Clark
Ends Daniels, Lowry

OLBs - Perry Brooks
ILBs - Matthews Martinez

SS- Burnett
FS- Ha Ha

CB- King
CB- House

Simplicity may really be the key here. But who knows. Im not an NFL coach and dont claim to be. But I would feel very comfortable defensively trotting these 11 guys out there at the start of any game.

croatpackfan's picture

By what data you put House there. He played nothing 2 whole games and he found himself hurt just by watching 2 games from the field.

For me, he is the largest dissapointment up today!

Nick Perry's picture


Probably because teams have focused on targeting Randall and Rollins. APC put up an interesting post suggesting Rollins spot might be in jeopardy in the line-up. According to this piece teams are 11 of 11 for 116 yards targeting Rollins and 8 of 12 for a whopping 146 yards targeting Randall. According to this piece and PFF, House was the least targeted CB in the NFL on a per snap basis who's played at least 50% of the defensive snaps. Now it didn't give up Houses stats but I'd bet any amount of money that mattered to me it's better than 19 of 23 for 262 yards!!

Finwiz's picture

Jayronne Elliott released by the Cowboys today.

The TKstinator's picture

Scape goat.
Or is it
Escape goat?

Point Packer's picture

Huge surprise someone who has hung on the Packers roster for multiple years can't find a home....

Don Barclay anyone?

MITM's picture

My thoughts exactly.

dobber's picture

Yes, Elliott was a core special teamer with the Packers and spot player on the defense. Every team--including Dallas--has those guys and many hang around for years. In this case, they ditched him before he cost them a draft pick. Packers did the same thing last year when they test-drove Knile Davis.

What's your point?

Ken Kessler's picture

Matthews could be great again if he actually did his job as an outside linebacker. seal the edge instead of crashing inside all the $%@% time! Everyone in the NFL knows that he will never stay outside to stop the run so they play into that and beat him like a drum. Replay the ATL game and you will see what I mean.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

See sacks vs. ty Sambraillo, must have had a good game. CM3's run D gap discipline is not good. Hasn't been for most of his career. CM3 is responsible for the 35 yard run and the 1 yd TD. At least CM3 does make some nice run stops when he guesses right.

al bundy's picture

Always envisioned him in the middle wrekng havoc. Imo they have him playing the wrong position. I know mikey wants him outside.
He has the speed and size to block passes and gap rush up the middle. Oh well. I hope he can stay healthy

Point Packer's picture

Odds he plays more than 12 games? I'd put money down on 10 or less.

dobber's picture

I'd take that bet. Matthews has millions of reasons to play a lot and play well this season.

...course, I still owe marpag $5 on a draft day bet, so good luck collecting if you win. ;)

Lphill's picture

I think when Brooks is healthy we will see a lot of Perry and Brooks on the outside and Clay in the middle . Especially third and long.

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