Where in the world was Clay Matthews this season?
It has been more than 24 hours since the Green Bay Packers were stunned by the New York Giants and I am sure sadness is beginning to turn into anger. Fans are questioning what happened to the best regular season in franchise history. Why did the Packers look so sluggish on the field? Where was the hunger to win that was so clear in 16 games this season? Too many questions not nearly enough answers.
One question I would like to ask for now is where in the world was Clay Matthews this season? I am sure many fans are wondering the same thing so that is why I am going to break it down for everyone.
Last season during Green Bay’s Super Bowl run, Matthews had 60 tackles (54 solo), 13.5 sacks, four passes defended, two forced fumbles and an interception on his way to being named runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.
This season in the same amount of games, Matthews had 50 tackles (37 solo), six sacks, nine passes defended, three forced fumbles and three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown.
Matthews’ statistics indicate he dropped back into coverage more than ever before instead of being the relentless pass rusher we all know he is capable of being. I put this one on defensive coordinator Dom Capers. If you have one of the best sack machines in all of football, why not utilize him better? Not only do I mean stop dropping him into coverage but move him around the field. Remember last season when Matthews would line up all along the defensive line and the opposing offensive line had no idea where he was coming from? I personally cannot remember one time Matthews lined up anywhere other than against the right tackle. That means he was never moved around and the opposing team always knew where he was coming from.
How many times did we see Matthews get double or tripled team on almost every down? I put this one on general manager Ted Thompson. The man is a draft day machine and I have all the respect in the world for him for building a team the correct way while saving loads of money to pay the superstars. However, the single biggest mistake that was made in the offseason was not resigning Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins was the exact player an outside pass rusher like Matthews needs on his team. Jenkins was capable of providing interior pressure which wouldn’t allow the quarterback to step up in the pocket so Matthews could have a field day. Mike Neal was meant to replace Cullen Jenkins but hasn’t quite panned out yet due to injuries that have forced him to miss 23 games, nine this season, in his first two years.
Basically, no interior pass rush means teams only have to worry about one player which equals triple teaming Matthews every play. Capers was not about to watch one of his best players get taken out of the game on every single down so he began to drop him into pass coverage. Matthews did decent defending nine passes and recording three interceptions but Thompson did not draft him to be used that way.
Is the anger subsiding? Good, now we can look at some solutions to fix the problem. Thompson would like to say Neal will pan out next season but honestly the Packers can’t afford to wait for that to happen. One thing Thompson could do is figure out how to draft defensive tackle Jerel Worthy out of Michigan State in the first round. Worthy may not always get home to the quarterback but he applies plenty of interior pressure that would allow other players to rack up the sacks. He is also a very good run stopper which is something the Packers could use more of. Thompson hates to do what I am about to suggest but the most obvious route would be to sign a proven free agent to get the job done. Jason Jones, when healthy, is capable of being an incredible interior pass rusher who specializes in preventing quarterbacks from stepping up into the pocket.
Green Bay has one of the most talented players in the league playing outside linebacker and it is their job to figure out ways to make him a threat on every down.