Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews has been receiving high praise this season after racking up six sacks in the team’s first two games, but none more so than the praise coming from linebackers coach Kevin Greene.
Greene, an outside linebacker in his playing days, says Matthews has the tools to be the best all-around 3-4 outside linebacker in NFL history and he should know what he’s talking about. In his playing career, Green notched 160 sacks, the bulk of which came during his time with the Los Angeles Rams.
“He has more athletically than I ever had,” Greene said. “He really is a special outside linebacker in the history of outside linebackers playing the 3-4 defense. And I’ve said this before, I’ve not seen another outside linebacker possess the all-around quality of abilities that he has. And I’m talking about the best ones that have ever played the position.”
Before we all get too excited, it should be noted this is only Matthews’ second NFL season, so he still has a long way to go in order to be considered one of the all-time greats. On the other hand, Matthews already looks like the Packers’ best draft pick in the Ted Thompson era.
Matthews presence and play is making both the players around him and the Packers’ defense as a whole better.
His non-stop motor makes teammates like Brandon Chillar play harder.
“It’s ridiculous,” Chillar said. “It’s fun to watch. I’m glad to be a part of it. When you have some guy going like that that hard, it makes you want to cover better so he can get some cover sacks.”
Opposing offenses also have to game plan for Matthews and have been double teaming him more consistently, as well, opening up opportunities for other players. All of the attention is something Matthews is getting used to.
“They have to deal with double teams and sometimes triple teams, and they still produce numbers,” Matthews said. “It’s only going to benefit our defense. If I can take away two blocks, that leaves someone else free. That’s how you’ve got to look at it. It’s all a puzzle that fits together. One for one, if there’s a mismatch, we should win. I feel confident in the other players, especially on the front line, if they’re doubling, to make a play.”
Through two games the Packers lead the NFL with 10 sacks. Overall, the defense ranks third behind the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens. The Packers are giving up an average of only 253 yards per game.
Obviously, much of that success can be attributed to Matthews. What will be telling is how the Packers defense fares if opposing teams focus specifically on stopping Matthews.
It looks like there will be a lot more opportunities for other guys to make plays as the season goes on. Then again, we wouldn’t count a guy like Matthews out even if he were quadruple teamed.