Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews has lit the state of Wisconsin on fire with his passion for football, raw talent and endless motor that allows him to run down opposing quarterbacks. Not to put any pressure on the guy, but it is inevitable that Matthews will one day become the Packers all-time sacks leader.
The 26-year old California native has 42.5 career sacks in just four seasons in the NFL, which is good for fifth in Packers franchise history behind the great Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Reggie White, Tim Harris and Aaron Kampman. In three of those four seasons Matthews has posted double-digit sack numbers.
Gbaja-Biamila is the top dog with 74.5 career sacks in a Packers uniform, which he accomplished over a nine-year span. In Matthews’ first four seasons, he has averaged 10.6 sacks per year. This means if he can keep his average up, he should be able to accomplish the feat in a little over three seasons.
However, Green Bay needs Matthews to attack the quarterback more than ever if they want to get back to the Super Bowl, so his average could very well increase per season. For instance, his 13.5 sacks in 2010 is his career best, and that happened in 15 regular season games. In 2012, Matthews recorded 13 sacks while missing four games with a hamstring injury. The fact of the matter is he will continue to get better over time as he is nowhere near hitting his prime. This means he could realistically break Gbaja-Biamila’s record in less than three years.
If it were not for Green Bay’s defense getting dominated all over the field in 2011, Matthews would not have had to drop back into coverage so much and could have concentrated on getting to the quarterback more. Instead, he had to find ways to make his six sacks look more meaningful and he did that by recording three interceptions, three forced fumbles, nine passes defended and one defensive touchdown.
I guarantee Matthews would love nothing more than to be remembered forever, or at least until his record is broken, as one of the top defensive playmakers in the great history of one of the best franchises in all of sports. However, what he would like even more than that is to be remembered as a member of the team that challenged Coach Vince Lombardi’s six NFL championships.
I also believe Matthews would be honored to be the Packers all-time sack leader but has his sights set on bigger things, such as Bruce Smith’s all-time NFL record of 200 career sacks. In order to accomplish that feat, he will have to find a way to stay active for several years to come, and Green Bay will need to have another dynamic pass rusher take some of the heat off of Matthews.
For the time being, fans will just have to enjoy the ride and be thankful they are blessed with such a talented player wearing the precious green and gold.