5

October

Who Is The Real Clay Matthews?

Clay Matthews gets a hit on Drew Brees in Week 1, but is it too little too late?

One sack.

Through four games in the 2011 regular season, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews has just one sack. As the 26th overall draft pick two years ago, he notched 10 sacks in his rookie season, followed by a 13.5-sack performance his sophomore year in the NFL. Opposing offenses have resorted to giving him plenty of attention through chips, double teams, and moving the pocket away from his side. Fans and coaches alike have come to expect an elite level of play from Matthews.

And yet it doesn’t seem like they’re getting it.

Despite playing against a porous Chicago Bears offensive line and matching up against pedestrian right tackles, Clay Matthews has just one sack to his name. The worst part is that his sack is no more than a technicality, as first draft pick Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers was running out of bounds on the play.

We gave him some leeway in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, since Drew Brees is an elite quarterback who can get the ball out of his hands quickly and accurately. The Week 2 matchup against the Panthers proved to be an unexpected performance from a rookie quarterback and a set of receivers that cut holes in the Packers’ secondary. Plus, Newton’s ability to run and the frequent checkdown passes required the linebackers to do some spying.

Then, after Week 3 against the Bears, people began to get worried.

Why hasn’t Clay Matthews been the disruptive force we’ve known him to be? Are the minor injuries and lack of preseason playing time catching up to him? Is the loss of Cullen Jenkins having that much of an effect across the line? Are offensive coordinators figuring out the defense?

It’s a frustrating situation, and despite all the opining from journalists and bloggers, no one has been able to come up with an answer.

Of course, this whole issue is just a slice of the larger problem – the Packers’ lack of a pass rush. Opposing quarterbacks are getting time in the pocket to make their reads, and there has seemingly been no consistent push along the line. This is what makes it challenging to sort out the concerns with Matthews’ performance.