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Packers OLBs Not Named Clay Matthews Offering Virtually No Pass Rush

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Packers OLBs Not Named Clay Matthews Offering Virtually No Pass Rush

Good thing for the Green Bay Packers that Clay Matthews is off to a good, albeit not great, start to the 2013 season.

He's the only player on the team with more than one sack, accounting for two so far this season, 16 tackles and two forced fumbles.

The bad news is that Matthews suffered a hamstring pull in the Packers' last game against the Cincinnati Bengals, missing the entire second half, and still hasn't returned. Matthews did not participate in Monday's practice despite having a week off for the team's bye.

Perhaps the Packers are just playing it safe with Matthews. After all, this is a player who missed four games with a hamstring injury last season and has been saddled with hamstring issues to one extent or another every season since his rookie year.

The prospect of the Packers having to go into a game minus Matthews is a scary prospect, especially considering they've gotten barely any pass rush from the other outside linebackers on their roster.

"Focusing more specifically on Mike Neal and Nick Perry, neither of them have a sack yet, neither of them have a hit yet," said Nathan Jahnke of on last Wednesday's episode of Cheesehead TV's Railbird Central. "Combined they have just nine pressures. So you'd like to see them get a little bit more pressure than what they've been getting."

Using the grading system provided by Pro Football Focus, Perry and Neal rank near the bottom among outside linebackers playing in a 3-4 defense in the entire NFL, respectively ranking 37th and 39th out of 41 players who have participated in at least 25 percent of their team's defensive snaps.

Perry's and Neal's pass rush have been especially woeful, but granted, in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, their defensive responsibilities included containing quarterback Colin Kaepernick more than generating pressure.

And to be fair, the ability to stuff the run from both Perry and Neal has been adequate to above average.

"Perry has been decent in the run game and Neal hasn't been too bad either," said Jahnke. "And both of them, in comparison to the outside linebackers have had in the past two years opposite Matthews, they've been playing against the run better than some of the other linebackers the Packers have had there. But you would certainly like to see a little bit more pressure out of them."

Indeed, one of only two outside linebackers that rank below Mike Neal in the Pro Football Focus position ratings is the Indianapolis Colts' Erik Walden, whom the Packers allowed to walk away in free agency this offseason.

Whether the subpar performance of Perry and Neal means the Packers will eventually turn to rookies Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer is yet to be determined.

Mulumba has gotten a cup of coffee on defense, playing in a total of 13 snaps and accounting for only two official tackles. Palmer, meanwhile, has only been active for one game and in his lone appearance saw action only on special teams.

No matter who plays, better times might be ahead for all the Packers' outside linebackers.

"One factor might be that all three right tackles the Packers have faced have had positive positive pass block ratings on our site, so they've been going up against some good opponents," said Jahnke. "And whoever the Lions have at right tackle, that should be the easiest opponent they have left. That might be a better gauge of how they might be doing in the next game rather than how they've done in the past."

Jason Fox is currently listed as the Lions right tackle on their unofficial depth chart with previous starter Corey Hilliard getting off to a rough start to the season.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (40) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

hayward4president's picture

Perry gets better every game. He will get him a sack or 2 this Sunday..

The TKstinator's picture

If'n he has him a hankerin' for even more, I'd surely not say no!

hayward4president's picture

He'd definitely have a much better chance with Clay in there though.

hayward4president's picture

And also....anyone else notice how huge Neal is.? 'e's pretty fn jacked.

KennyPayne's picture

Well Perry was only a 1st round pick and Neal a 2nd rounder so why should we expect them to be hitting the QB in their 2nd and 4th years respectively.

Al's picture

Why does it seem like the packers struggle drafting and developing certain position groups? Outside of Raji and Matthews who were both 1st round picks in the same draft, none of the other DL or OLB picks to date have been that good. Am I missing anyone? I know that we have had injuries and some guys appear to be good sometimes. But I'm really talking about the kind of players that are commonly performing at a high level and they don't seem to be on our defense outside of Matthews. I guess I need to lower my standard a bit though. You can't have a whole team full of Rodgers and Matthews after all. By the way speaking of Raji, where is that dude? Is he just basically a run stuffer and pile pusher now? Didn't he have like 6 sacks (guessing) his rookie year and probably that same amount since then? I'm not a 3-4 expert or anything but... if you have a supposed beast like Raji up from and two other big boys that weight close to 330 pounds, shouldn't that just about consume all 5 OL and leave the OLB clear to rush the QB? Or is it that Capers doesn't send his OLB's after the QB enough? I am curious because talent wise I suspect Perry and Neal have the tools, so I am wondering where the disconnect is...

Mojo's picture

A lot of good observations Al. I too wonder if our bigs in the middle are supposedly sacrificing and taking up blockers all the time, and Clay is at times getting doubled, then why aren't our other OLB's creating havoc? And as you said, Perry and Neal are considered athletes. So what is going on? If the opponents o-line is occupied with our bigs how come our OLB's can't ever beat single blocks(I'm assuming many times from TE's and RB's).

And don't tell me they're supposed to just be setting an edge. Other teams have OLB's who set the edge, but still get production as pass-rushers. Maybe they just don't have the instincts or technique.

Stroh's picture

Its hardly just the Packers that have trouble drafting DL and 34 OLB. Lets take a look at the past decade of DL drafted just in the top 1/2 of the 1st rd.
"03 draft DL (2 quality players of 7)
#4 DeWayne Robertson bust
#6 Jon Sullivan bust
#9 Kevin Williams multiple Pro Bowler
#12 Jimmy Kennedy bust
#13 Ty Warren Pro Bowler
#14 Michael Haynes, Bears bust
#15 Jerome McDougal bust

'04 draft
#14 Tommie Harris Bears, Pro bowler short career, good pick

'05 draft
#16 Travis Johnson bust

#1 Mario Williams Good Player but over-rated
#12 Haloti Ngata multiple Pro Bowler
#14 Broderick Bunkley, bust

'07 draft
#4 Gaines Adams, died early in career unknown
#8 Jamal Anderson bust
#10 Amobi Okoye bust
#13 Adam Carreker bust
#16 Justin Harrell bust

'08 draft
#2 Chris Long, good player not #2 overall, relative bust for draft slot
#5 Glenn Dorsey bust
#7 Sedrick Ellis bust
#8 Derrick Harvey bust

'09 draft
#3 Tyson Jackson 6 sacks in 5 yrs, good player at best
#9 BJ Raji, Pro Bowler

'10 draft
#2 Suh Detroit, Pro Bowler
#3 Gerald McCoy, probable Pro Bowler
#10 Tyson Alualu bust
#13 Brandon Graham bust
#15 Jason Pierre Paul Pro Bowler
#16 Derrick Morgan bust

'11 draft
#3 Marcel Darius Good player, good player, not pro bowler yet
#11 JJ Watt Pro Bowler
#13 Nick Fairley, good but not great yet
#14 Robert Quinn, very good

'12 draft still too early to tell but looks good
#11 Dontari Poe
#12 Fletcher Cox
#14 Michael Brockers
#16 Quinton Coples

Not counting '12 draft cuz its just too early to tell. That's ALOT of BUSTS in just the top 16 picks overall! And OLB is pretty similar especially for 34 OLB.

DL generally take thru the 3rd season to determine how good they are.

DL and 34 OLB are the most difficult positions to project in the NFL. Pittsburgh almost always has good 34 OLB, but they used to give them 3 years to learn and develop before they became starters.

And remember that's just looking at the top 16 overall picks, not end 1st rd or 2nd round where the Packers have been drafting them!

BradHTX's picture

Very informative, Stroh. Props.

Mr Smith's picture

Sweet post. Facts are difficult to argue against.

nick perry's picture

Totally agree Al. I really thought when the Packers drafted Datone Jones, that would help Raji return to the 2010 Raji when he had 6.5 sacks playing next to Jenkins. The good news is, the Packers have only played 3 games so it's tough to really tell how this team will fare. Jones should only get better. Perry has been good against the run but damn, he gets no pressure on the QB. Playing a 3-4 defense you have to have 2 outside linebackers that can apply pressure. To early to call Perry a bust, but every scout said he wouldn't transform well to a outside LB.

Lou's picture

The defensive problems stay the same, they have not replaced Cullen Jenkins quickness to rush inside on the defensive line and they have not replaced Nick Collins ability to "make plays" that turn games around in the secondary. With those 2 in place you can win a Super Bowl with marginal players at LB opposite #53 like Frank Zombo and the dreadful Erik Walden. Replace those 2 key players with a similar player and no one cares who plays opposite #53.

Al's picture

Great point I hadnt thought of that

Stroh's picture

How's Jenkins doing now? Oh, that's right he got released by the Iggles even w/ what was thought to be a very good contract on their end! Apparently Thomspon knew Jenkins, while having had a terrific year in '10 wasn't going to be able to replicate that success. But you go ahead thinking Jenkins was the key.

Oh and that's not to mention that in the 4 or 5 games Jenkins missed in '10 the Packers didn't miss a beat Defensively or the fact that Jenkins was missing an average of about 6 games a year the previous couple years.

Try again... Or maybe you don't mind being wrong a lot.

Lou's picture

I don't question Thompson making the age/money call required in moving away from Jenkins - you are correct to point out he is not the same player since which proves Thompson's point in not signing him. But, even the casual fan would point to his and Collin's presence (plus the consistent play at LB of Mathews and Bishop inside) were the keys to stopping Big Ben in the Big Game. My point is very valid, if you have two players playing in Jenkin's and Collin's positions at the same level today it does not matter who is opposite Mathews - if you believe otherwise you are in denial.

Evan's picture

Yeah, Jenkins ability now is besides the point - the issue, according to Lou, is the Packers haven't yet been able to replace 2010 Jenkins with a comparable player.

KennyPayne's picture

Jenkins' production for the 2 years after TT let him walk weas far superior to that of his anointed replacement Mike Neal.

In fact, Neal was such a bust as 3-4 DE that he was converted to OLB -- where he now ranks 38 out of 41 players at that position according to PFF.

The point is, TT/Dom have utterly failed to come up with another pass rusher besides Clay -- other than Jenkins in 2011. The sorry state of the D is directly attributable to this failure.

Clay's picture

Thanks Stroh! It makes me nuts that people forgot Jenkins was gone for a big portion of the SB season, not to mention I didn't hear his name called once throughout the playoffs. Yes I know he was doing that 'behind the scenes' work. You'd think by the way people talk he was the next Reggie White. He did great against Warner and the Cardinals too in the playoffs..oh wait. Let's hope for Datone's roll to expand. I think he's still healing and learning.

KennyPayne's picture

If you didn't hear Cullen Jenkins name called during the 21-14 NFC Championship game against the Bears (a game in which the Bears O scored the same number of points as the Pack's O and ARod had a putrid QB rating) then you must have slept through it.

Every once in a while even an offensive juggernaut needs a D to come through and that is what the D did in Chicago.

Oh, and Jenkins 7.5 sacks in 2010 came as you said in only 11 games. Who other than Clay do you expect to come close to matching that this year? Tramon on his CB blitzes?

Stroh's picture

Like I said, Jenkins was terrific in '10, but he always had trouble staying on the field too. Since he got the contract from Philly, he's been very ordinary. DL take a few years to develop, same w/ 34 OLB. It remains to be seen what happens w/ Neal, Worthy, Perry, Jones. At least the Packers are doing as well w/ late 1st and 2nd round picks as most teams that draft MUCH higher (top 16 overall), like I showed above!

Tarynfor12's picture

“And whoever the Lions have at right tackle, that should be the easiest opponent they have left...."

So if they happen to get a sack or a couple of hurries we're suppose to be ecstatic about their play until they meet a better level of RT and except it as they're getting better because getting better only counts against worse.

Will somebody please watch tape on this guy Perry with open eyes and tell me where in any game as yet he is even dominate in the run game...I want to record it and upload it for the world to see...I have All-22 and I haven't seen it....please help by noting game/quarter/time of play and let me do this service for the #1 pick and his loyal flock of believers.

KennyPayne's picture

Nick Perry is quickly turning into the AJ Hawk of OLBs. Packer fans insist he is stout against the run, solid at the point of attack, blah, blah, blah.

Truth is, like his fellow 1st rounder AJ, Perry makes no impactful plays.

The lack of production from high picks like Perry, Neal, Worthy, Sherrod, Bulaga, is devastating to a team that refuses to consider adding veteran talent like GB.

Just hope Jones is not the next disappointment.

Evan's picture

Perry has played 8 games...just sayin'

KennyPayne's picture

Fair enough.

Tell me how many games 1st round pick Nick Perry must play before I can expect him to be rated higher than 37 of 41 NFL OLBs?

And how many has Mike Neal played?

Tarynfor12's picture

Two years from now we'll hear the same song...he's only played in x-amount of games...give him time..there's another low level RT on the horizon for him to play against.

Evan's picture

Well, you can rush to whatever judgments you want. But I just think half a season is hardly a fair chance.

Evan's picture

"Two years from now we’ll hear the same song..."

Not from me you won't.

Stroh's picture

At OLB Neal has only played 3 games! He was a disruptive interior pass rusher as a rookie pre-injury and last year (4 sacks). In '11 he played thru major knee pain and was still recovering from ACL surgery.

Pittsburgh used to give the OLB they drafted 3 years to learn and develop into Starters. Not 8 games like your judging Perry on!

Evan's picture

"...granted, in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, their defensive responsibilities included containing quarterback Colin Kaepernick more than generating pressure."

Wasn't that predominately the case against the Redskins as well?

They've only faced one traditional offense so far. I'm willing to give them a few more weeks before making any judgments.

Tarynfor12's picture

Most were saying when we play the Bengals and their traditional offense and an less mobile QB as Dalton we would see what he has to offer or at least improved too....the only thing a RT needs to stop Perry is music box playing a slow waltz and Perry does a 6 inch box step.

Morgan Mundane's picture

and they can't play one consistent type defense and stick with it why??????
Do you seriously thing this team defense can change game to game. What the hell have you been smoking

jake -from State Farm's picture

I hate to be negative but what I've seen on my TV screen thus far, every single team is running right at Perry. Almost 95% of the running plays are going at him so he should have a ton o tackles right.
Every time I've seen him rush the QB he runs right into, not around, not under, not through but right at the O linemen who seems to handle him easily.
My take, Perry is a bust. He has had a season and a half to make the kind of statement a FIRST ROUND draft pick should be making and it ain't happening.
He is playing like a fourth round substitute.
The Middle of our line has no speed of agility. They are pushing the center back but that's about it. By the time they are anywhere near the QB the ball is gone and again teams are running away from them towards Perry.
IMHO, this may be the worst pass rushing team in football again this year.
Take Mathews out of the equation and ask yourself what have we got.
Datone is on the sidelines way too much for a frist round pick. Must be his lack of speed they weren't prepared for in PackerLand?

Morgan Mundane's picture

A telling indication for me about Perry happened last year. Two things actually. One, pre draft analyst didn't rate him highly. Late first, or easy second rounder.
Second, in one game I remember seeing him and Mathews, side by side left side of field, QB rolling out to their side. Mathews took two steps and closed on the QB and Perry was almost still in the same spot. From that point on I learned something, Perry lacks quickness.
The first two acceleration steps you need to close on a QB is missing from him. He needs to slowly build up speed. In layman terms he will never amount to a pass rusher and the reason I think they made him a linebacker instead.

Tarynfor12's picture

Agreed....he's doing a old Crazy Glue commercial and proving it sticks to anything...especially cleats and turf.

White92's picture

The Pack has played 2 teams that feature the read option. These outside backers have had more than the normal responsibility to contain the opposing QB. This may have contributed to the lack of pressure. JMHO

Tarynfor12's picture

If Perry played at a somewhat higher level against the fast and furious Andy Dalton,I may be more inclined to the benefit of doubt but...the curtain didn't rise on that stage.

fishlove73's picture

I think the whole idea of pressure is a little deceptive in the 3-4. 1) a lot of times capers has 2 down lineman in a crap attempt to cover a pass. 2) teams that play the packers use 2 and 3 tight ends to take the linebackers out of the picture as far as how can linebackers get home if they have to cover a tight end??? And 3) green bay has not even come remotely close to plugging holes at the safety spot ( woodson,Collins) which is critical in a 3-4. Teams are killing us in the middle of the field which is where the 3-4 is most vulnerable anyway....

hump's picture

enough on the perry and neal griping! our run d has been solid thru 3 games. no way thompson lets neal walk, 3 yrs 10 mil will be a steal!! now if you want to bitch about jennings and mcmillian as our defensive bumble fcks, IM ALL EARS!!!!

Morgan Mundane's picture

Read a great article about how important are QB's to their team and is Rogers the problem of the packers when he doesn't have that 100 plus ratings day.
Bottom line summerization, Rogers may be the best QB in football but has a worse record overall than Brady and Manning due to the woeful play of the defense.
Rogers record when the team is ahead in the fourth quarter is not that good. He got the team there and the defense let it go.

Stroh's picture

Thanks for pointing out what most of us already knew. The D has let the Packers down since basically the '11 season and even before that to some degree.

FYI, its spelled R O D G E R S! Get it freakin right!!

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