How good is Clay Matthews?

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In 2009, as a rookie, Matthews tied for 11th in the league with 10 sacks. He also forced 1 fumble, had 3 fumble recoveries and famously scored a TD after astutely prying the ball right out of the hands of an unsuspecting Vikings player (wasn’t it Adrian Peterson?). Statistically, he was phenomenal not just for a rookie but for any LB (and that’s not even including hurries, pressures, other tackles for loss, 4th down stops, and overall disruption etc).

This year, he is already off to a huge start with 6 sacks and a forced fumble in 2 games. It is rare for anyone at any position, to EVER have 6 sacks in 2 games. These stats of course don’t include the huge numbers of hurries and pressures he’s had already – or even the great 4th down stop on Michael Vick. He has been all over the place contributing way more than most LBs in the NFL.

I know that there are people who don’t like to get too excited about stuff and like to temper excitement with words of “wise caution”. Essentially, these people almost enjoy pooping on the excitement of others. Well, if you’re one of these people, I’m not in your camp when when it comes to Clay Matthews. I’m posting this today because I have settled on the conclusion that Clay Matthews is out of control good. And frankly, we need to prepare ourselves for national talk of Defensive Player of the Year honors, for sack leader talk, for Reggie White comparisons, for opposing offenses rearranging entire game plans to avoid the guy, etc, etc, etc. There will be talk about how teams will be trying to double and even triple team him – which of course will only 1) limit their offensive playcalling; 2) not really help because he’ll still get to the QB and 3) open the door for other Packers to sack the QB. I’m not building hype here, I am simply trying to prepare Packer Nation for a national outbreak of Clay Matthews Fever.

Clay Matthews is THAT good.

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9 Responses to “How good is Clay Matthews?”

  1. CindyV Says:

    Clay has been named Defensive Player of the Week. So far, so good.

  2. ebongreen Says:

    He’s absolutely bloody good, and he’s already making people like Cullen Jenkins better. He’s also being used well in a scheme that displays his talents, and he’s making plays against disorganized/disarrayed offensive lines – which he should. He’ll have another shot Monday night against the Bears, where he should make plays again, because the Bears OL is another mess, relatively speaking.

    The Packers may have found their DeMarcus Ware – but even bad offenses will (usually) adjust. DW hasn’t managed to equal his 20-sack season from ’08 since, and this year he’s only got one sack, even going up against the Bears. Even if Clay’s numbers go down, as long as he stays healthy he’ll remain a force to be reckoned with and he’ll make the Packers better on defense and as a team.

    Be a fan, be a booster – AND let’s see how Clay has fared at the bye in week 10. He’ll have played nine games, including one against Dallas and Tony Romo. If he even averages two sacks a game until then, he’ll be at 20 with seven games remaining. Now that would be a nuclear-fusion-powered pace worth every praise that can be sung, and would virtually lock DPOY honors.

    Even one sack per game the rest of the way would give him 20 and put him in serious contention for DPOY.

    Yes, I’m the “wise caution” sort. The season’s sixteen games and seventeen weeks long – I’m taking the long view. :)

  3. Trav Says:

    As you said, if the OC’s of the league adjust to handle him (which if they are any good, they should.), I would expect to see the numbers of his counterparts go up while his may plateau. I think this is a great position to be in because now having to plan for both Clay and Woodson, should open other opportunities for Capers.

    I am in agreement with Andy, CM is playing like a beast right now and he has no peer after 2 games.

  4. DaveK Says:

    This is a honest question – How does an offense account for a guy that lines up all over the place? Last year he was almost always on the right side. The Cardinals schemed him out of the playoff game with a TE or RB help almost every play. This year Capers is moving him all along the line depending on the offensive formation. Matthews has had one v. one match-ups most of the time because of it. I’m just not sure how a defense adjusts to Matthews when they have no idea where he will coming from on any given play. ???

    I also think the play of Raji has helped make life easier for the OLBs. He has provided that pocket pressure that moves the QB towards the OLB’s. He doesn’t get the sack totals but Raji is a key cog to this defense.

  5. RayMidge Says:

    I agree with DaveK, Raji has been tremendous so far and that middle push has made it that much more difficult for teams to focus on Matthews. I look at Raji and Matthews and I think of Sapp and D. Brooks on that great TB defense- and those guys won a Super Bowl without anyone as good as Aaron Rodgers at QB.

    I was very skeptical about the trade up to get Matthews in the last draft; I am very happy to be so wrong. The best thing about Matthews as a fan is that he is one of those guys that when he reaches the QB or the ballcarrier he makes the tackle- guys don’t wriggle out of his grasp, guys don’t break his arm tackle. That strength is what separates him from most LBs and almost all of the LBs in GB for the past 25 years.

  6. Travis Says:

    I agree with you all. And Ray, your point about how he gets that tackle once he’s in reach is so true. You can’t shed the sack. You get rid of the ball and take a hit. No other option. He will chase you all over the field, and can turn and move as quick as you.

    And Davek has actually got a very good point. If Matthews is all over the place, how do you account for him. Cause if you just double team him based on where he lines up, that line will be in shambles every down. We have Jenkins, Raji, Pickett. That’s no tea party. When OCs start to adjust to focus on Matthews, there are going to be mistakes after mistakes and were going to see a lot of big plays by our defense. Sacks, fumbles, picks, incompletions.

    But has this crossed anyones mind yet? When are we going to start hearing about the steroids and stuff. I know he’s never been found guilty of using them and denies it 100%, but it’s not like it can’t be true. And people are certainly going to speculate, maybe he has overtrained athletes syndrome too like his buddy Cushing.

    Unfortunately, the only way to prove is by not being detected in any of the drug tests. If only we could know for sure whats true. I totally trust and believe Matthews despite his monster ability and how much his body has changed so quick in college, but you never know.

  7. Tangysizzl Says:

    Ted Thompson isn’t perfect we all know that but his trade up to draft Clay Matthews will be remembered forever as one of the best draft day trades of all time. It may not have looked so good the day he gave up 3 draft choices to select him but no one can argue with the results so far.

    And to think hes doing all of this without training camp for the second season in a row. Its also crazy to think that in only his second year, he has a chance to get even better than he is right now. That is scary.

    Any questions of steroid use are unfounded and basically guilt by association. Unless steroids help someone grow in height his so called body transformation is blown out of purportion. He left high school as a 6’1″ 185 lb senior and by the time he finished his first year in colledge he grew two inches and put on roughly 35 lbs.

    Until Clay acually tests positive for steroids, I don’t believe it for a second.

  8. Scott W Says:

    Best of all? I believe Clay was the “Brett Favre” pick in the draft. Love. It.

  9. RayMidge Says:

    Trav, please take all of my views on this as the self-admittedly cynical reflex it is, but I for one ALWAYS suspect steroids or HGH when I see an athlete perform with what seems like an impossible combination of strength and speed- which is to say I suspect the vast majority (75-85%? 99%?) of NFL players. It is impossible to witness the evolution of professional football over the last 20 years and not think that PEDs play a huge part in today’s game. Consider that in 1985 William Perry was called “The Fridge” because he was a wopping 325 lbs and today there are probably entire O-lines that average 340 lbs and Brandon Jacobs plays tailback at 285 lbs.

    My twist on this is that I don’t particularly care. I assume the playing field is pretty level, that all of the players, or at least all of the non-skill players, seem so much bigger stronger and faster than they were when I was growing up that I assume most if nto all are participating.

    Moreover, unlike in baseball I think PEDs actually improve football, which is to say it enhances those things when football is really about.

    While I would never take steroids myself or want relatives or friends etc… to take them because of the health risks, I don’t view taking steroids as inherently wrong by someone else UNLESS it upsets the nature and balance of the games. I think PEDs were bad for baseball by completely disrupting the scale of the game and the emphasis on contact, defense, speed etc… Baseball became less like baseball because of the infiltration of PEDs which eliminated the fatigue factor over the course of a long season and which rendered obsolete the dimensions of the avg stadium.

    But in football, the game has only gotten better to watch as PEDs have become mainstream. The one big downside in football is the injuries- with guys so big and strong and fast collisions are that much more high stake and we are seeing lots of injuries as a result (I have no stats to back this up- its just my impression).

    There is literally not one NFL player who I would be surprised to find out is taking some form of PEDs. That doesn’t mean they all are, innocent until proven guilty etc… but I am just saying that I would not be surprised to hear that Clay was or anyone else on the packers.

    btw, I recommend the documentary “Bigger Stronger Faster” about a guy who grew up as a power lifter who has two brothers who also lifted and played football and wrestled. The filmmaker documents his own family’s history with steroids as well as the use of it throughout amatuer and professional sports. Pretty eye-opening, and not in the ways you might think.

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