Clay Matthews’ position on the Green Bay Packer’s defensive line has been solid almost since he began playing. This year, Dom Capers has switched things up a bit for Matthews (and the rest of the line), and although he may be making a little less noise, he is still making an impact. In other words, he is no less scary.
For the past few weeks, the Packer offense has been wavering between great and just okay, leaving the results to the defense. Early in the season Capers experimented with Matthews in a different position, moving him into the inside linebacker position. A move that has done nothing but help the rest of the defensive line. According to Bleacher Report, by putting Clay in this position, it has opened the door for other linemen to make their move. Across the first five games of the season, the Packers have amassed 20 sacks with Julius Peppers claiming 4.5 sacks, Nick Perry claiming 3.5, Mike Daniels claiming 2.5, and Mike Neal claiming 1.5. The opposing offense is watching where Matthews is and trying to protect their line as best as they can, allowing for other players on the line to move in.
Why are they so worried about Clay Matthews? During a press conference, Matthews said, “But when you play hard, you have no regrets. And that’s kind of how I play, whether it’s a facemask or a low hit on a quarterback. I don’t think anybody intentionally – especially myself – goes out there and tries to inflict illegal hits. Or pain. Or whatever you like to call it. It’s just a byproduct of playing hard, I believe,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. Ask any quarterback (or player in general) that has been hit by Clay and they will tell you the intensity behind Matthews’ style. It wouldn’t be pleasant.
In fact, Matthews plays so hard that after his sack to Ram’s quarterback Nick Foles, the league fined him $17,363. Clay maintains that it’s never his intention to break the rules, but rather he just tries to make the plays without holding anything back. In this case, he appeared to have led with his helmet, and that is the cause for the fine. The sack was just one of his 4.5 sacks for the season so far putting him in the running for defensive player of the year.
Game 6 of the 2015 season was against the San Diego Chargers, and Clay was, again, not silent. He recovered a fumble, made some important tackles, and had three quarterback hits. The game was narrowly won and it was largely due to the defense. In a special feature piece done by CBS, Clay said, “For the longest time it’s always been Aaron Rodgers and the offense. It’s nice to have a little notoriety on defense.” This win gave the Packers a 6-0 record on the season so far, and if Clay can keep it up there’s a very good chance that they may see the Super Bowl this year, and not from their TV sets.
As much as Packer fans are enjoying the wins, and as much as Matthews is enjoying the recognition, everyone is looking and hoping for a more balanced team after the bye week. ESPN noted that the Packers may be undefeated but they are certainly not perfect, and we can certainly agree with that.
[Image credit to Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]