1) Introduction: Packers OLB Clay Matthews entered the 2012 season looking to re-gain his 2010 form when he posted 15 sacks and helped lead the Packers to their third Super Bowl title. Matthews started strong before a hamstring injury sidelined him for over a month later in the season. He returned for the latter part of the season and helped boost an otherwise anemic pass rush.
Clay Matthews III
- Age: 26
- Born: 5/14/1986 in Agoura Hills, CA
- Height: 6’03”
- Weight: 255
- College: Southern California
- Rookie Year: 2009
- NFL Experience: 4 years
3) Expectations coming into the season: The Packers needed a dramatic improvement over their 2011 defensive performance. Matthews was seen as a key piece to bolstering that side of the ball. Matthews was moved back to right outside linebacker where he was effective during his rookie season. With first round draft pick Nick Perry on the opposite side at left outside linebacker, the hope was that Matthews would see more favorable matchups and opportunities to pester opposing quarterbacks.
4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Matthews graded out best in Green Bay’s big win at the Houston Texans in week six. But his biggest highlight was the four-sack performance he put up in week two against the Chicago Bears. It was a sight for sore eyes and a sign that the Matthews of old was back. The low-light of Matthews season was missing over a month with a hamstring injury. This proved to be a low-light for the Packers defense as a whole as they were nothing close to what they were with Matthews on the field. Matthews rarely graded poorly in a single game, according to Pro Football Focus and he was a constant force when on the field and healthy.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Matthews was, by far, the Packers’ best defensive player in 2012. Clearly their defensive Most Valuable Player. His 14 sacks was his second-highest career total and he added a dimension that no other defender was capable of adding when he stepped on the field. While the team won all but one of the games that Matthews missed, they were clearly not the same on defense without him. Had it not been for quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ high level of play, Green Bay would have likely struggled to play to the level that they did with Matthews active.
6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Matthews had three sacks in the postseason and graded out well overall. He was vital in containing Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson during the wild card round victory. He did manage a sack on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the divisional round. Matthews turned in a decent performance in run defense and had a pass deflected in that game. Unfortunately the rest of the defense wasn’t able to match that level and they left San Francisco empty handed.
Season Report Card:
(A-) Level of expectations met during the season
(A) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(A-) Contributions to team during the playoffs
Overall Grade: A-