Clay Matthews has been labeled a superstar throughout his NFL career and is one of the most popular pass rushers. Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, Matthews has not been as much of a pass rushing threat over the past few seasons and has struggled with injury issues as well.
Looking ahead to the 2017 NFL season, the Packers cannot afford to have another down season from Matthews. Green Bay’s defense has been weak from a pass rushing perspective, and it has taken a toll on the defense as a whole. Matthews may not be able to fix the issue completely by himself, but the Packers need a rejuvenated version of him.
Last season with the Packers, Matthews ended up playing in 12 regular season games. He recorded just 24 tackles, which was by far a career low for him. Matthews also only compiled five sacks on the season.
Back in his prime with the Packers, Matthews had 13.5 sacks in 2010 and 13.0 sacks in 2012. Even in the 2014 season, Matthews was able to rack up 11.0 sacks. That version of Matthews would make a major difference for Green Bay’s defense.
Outside of Matthews, the Packers have a few other pass rushers who have made major impacts. Nick Perry led the team in 2016 with 11 sacks of his own. Julius Peppers was second in sacks with 7.5, although he departed Green Bay this past offseason and signed a deal in free agency with the Carolina Panthers.
Clay Matthews said this spring he's back to full health and energized for the season. Packers need all he's got in 2017. pic.twitter.com/rOsxB1loK6— Mike Spofford (@mikespofford) July 31, 2017
Green Bay is viewed as one of the top contenders in the NFC once again this season. A big part of their projected success has to do with the fact that Aaron Rodgers is under center and still in the prime of his career. The Packers have built an offense around him that should be one of the most potent in the league.
Simply looking back to the Packers’ Super Bowl season in 2010, the Packers’ defense was a key part of their run. No team can win a championship without a competent defense. Green Bay’s defense was poor last season, finishing No. 22 in overall team defense.
If the Packers want to make it back to the NFC Championship Game this season, their defense must take a step forward. Ted Thompson went out and drafted cornerback Kevin King in the 2017 NFL Draft, while also bringing in defensive back Josh Jones. Both players will help the secondary, although a lot will fall on Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins’ shoulders to develop.
While the secondary may have issues, a strong pass rush would help fix them. Matthews may be labeled as a superstar, but it is time for him to prove that he is still capable of playing at that level.
All of that being said, Matthews has proved himself time and time again throughout his NFL career. Green Bay needs more out of him this season, and he is the type of player to rise to the occasion. If Matthews is able to get back in the double digit sack numbers, the Packers will have a deadly pass rushing duo with him and Perry leading the way.
Expect to see Matthews get back to being viewed as an elite pass rusher. Green Bay’s defense may not become one of the best in the league, but it should take a major jump with their leader rejuvenating his career.
Do you think Clay Matthews will get back to being one of the league’s elite pass rushers? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!
[Featured Image by Ben Margot/AP Images]