It looks like the Green Bay Packers will be targeting the December 16 game against the Chicago Bears for linebacker Clay Matthews’ return. Matthews has missed the last three games due to a hamstring injury. He has not been officially ruled out for the upcoming game against the Detroit Lions and has seen a little bit of the practice field, but Green Bay will be very conservative with Matthews.
I’m glad the Packers are taking the cautious approach and not pushing Matthews, who has dealt with hamstring issues almost his entire career, back too early. That said, PLEASE COME BACK, CLAY! The Packers need you so, so, so badly! They try to pretend that they have some sort of a pass rush without you, but they have nothing. Nothing!
It’s true. With the injuries suffered by the defense, the Packers are just trying to get seven guys healthy enough to put on the line. Matthews is obviously the biggest loss, but rookie Nick Perry was doing some very good things until he suffered a season-ending injury, and playing last week without defensive end C.J. Wilson caused some problems, as well. Linebackers Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith have also been lost to season-ending injuries. With all these injuries, the glimmer of hope is that Matthews is almost ready to suit up again.
Before the Greek God of the Gridiron went down in Week 9, Green Bay led the league in sacks with 28. In the last two games, they have recorded one. One against the New York Giants and zero last week against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Giants game was particularly frustrating to watch. Aaron Rodgers was being beaten like a piñata while awful Eli Manning had enough time in the pocket to stretch out, pull up a chair, read a magazine.
The Packers also miss Clay in other areas besides pressuring the quarterback. A huge focus for Green Bay in the offseason was improving tackling technique after the defensive disaster of 2011. The improvement has definitely been evident thus far this season, but has also been tailing off of late. Again, a huge part of that is injuries. Matthews, in particular, is a very, very solid tackler and rarely misses an opportunity to take a guy to the ground. For his first couple of seasons, Matthews’ biggest liability was his run coverage, but he has improved that aspect of his game dramatically and is now one of their more dependable run defenders.
As mentioned, Matthews has dealt with on-and-off hamstring injuries since he came into the NFL, so it is of course wiser to err on the side of caution when bringing him back. The Green Bay defense should be commended for holding it together as well as they have with so many injuries, but Matthews really can’t come back soon enough.