Despite being two of the most accomplished defensive players over the last 10 years, both Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers have something to prove this season for the Green Bay Packers.
It sounds like they’re looking forward to helping each other make their respective points.
Matthews needs to show that he can stay healthy and return the Packers defense back to its Super Bowl form of 2010. The Packers paid Matthews $66 million over 5 years last offseason, but he missed a chunk of 2014 and has battled nagging hamstring injuries his entire career.
Peppers wants to show that he’s not washed up and can be a difference maker on a defense that has come up short in the postseason the last three seasons.
If both players are going to make statements and get the Packers defense back to where it needs to be, they’ll need to sack, hit, chase, harass and make life miserable for the other team’s quarterback.
Matthews and Peppers have done plenty of that in their careers, but they’re finally going to have something neither one has had much of in the past: Help from the other side. And that help will come from each other.
According to Ourlads.com’s opening day NFL depth charts archive, here are the players who have lined up on the opposite end of the line from Peppers and at the opposite linebacker from Matthews to start the season since 2010 (and the number of sacks each sidekick finished with):
2009 Tyler Brayton (5 sacks)
2010 Mark Anderson (3.5 sacks)
2011 Israel Idonije (5 sacks)
2012 Israel Idonije (7.5 sacks)
2013 Corey Wootton (3.5 sacks)
TOTAL Four different players in five seasons, 24.5 sacks.
*Peppers totaled 48.5 sacks from 2009-13.
2009 Aaron Kampman (3.5 sacks)
2010 Brad Jones (0 sacks)
2011 Erik Walden (3 sacks)
2012 Nick Perry (2 sacks)
2013 Nick Perry (4 sacks)
TOTAL Four different players in five seasons, 12.5 sacks.
*Matthews totaled 50 sacks from 2009-13.
Obviously, as each season progressed, the person lining up opposite of Matthews and Peppers changed due to injury or lineup adjustments, but you get my point: Neither player has had a feared pass-rushing partner from the other side of the line in a long, long time, if ever.
Peppers himself said as much during the first day of OTAs earlier this week. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“I haven’t really played with a guy like Clay my whole career,” Peppers said. “Early in my career, I played with a guy in Mike Rucker who was a threat on the other side. But a really dominant player on the other side, I really haven’t had that, ever. So I’m excited.”
If Peppers is excited, imagine how Packers fans feel.
I realize that Peppers will probably move around the defense and not solely line up on the opposite side of Matthews. I also realize that Peppers is old and might not be the player he once was.
But it’s nice to have some excitement about the edge pass rush opposite of Matthews for a change. We don’t have to hope that Nick Perry will finally develop. We don’t have to fire up Google and figure out who the hell Erik Walden or Brad Jones are.
Now, the Packers will put a player with 119, sacks, 40 forced fumbles and 64 knockdowns on the other side of the defense from Matthews.
Go ahead and be a skeptical worry-wart if you want. I’m going to be excited and look forward to Peppers and Matthews helping each other make their respective points.
Packers News, Notes and Links
- On Twitter this week, I had people whose opinions I respect compare Colt Lyerla to Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez, Julius Thomas and Eric Ebron and say Lyerla was a first-round talent. This Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel piece was also gushing. I get how making comparisons to other well-known tight ends helps people understand what type of player the Packers have, but let’s not put Lyerla in the hall of fame just yet. If he truly was a first-round talent with Jimmy Graham talent, he would have been drafted by some team late despite his off-field issues. Go ahead and be excited about what Lyerla could be, but keep a little bit of perspective while doing it.
- The doctor who performed Jermichael Finley’s fusion surgery cleared the tight end to play football, but that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to see the field ever again. I always thought the Packers should definitely bring Finley back if he was cleared by team doctors to play without increased risk of permanent injury, but now I’m not so sure. He’s now had a major knee injury and a major neck injury, plus a concussion. The Packers usually part ways with a player after those types of injuries and they are usually right in doing so.
- The Packerpedia podcast returns with a discussion featuring Matt Waldman from Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Another must-listen draft conversation from one of the Packers Talk Radio Network shows.
- Micah Hyde took snaps at safety during OTAs this week. This only makes sense because it might be tough getting Hyde on the field this season (before injuries hit, of course). If he can also play safety, it gives him another opportunity to get snaps and make an impact. Hyde is a talented player, but not necessarily more talented than the players in front of him on the depth chart.
- Will 2014 be the year of a B.J. Raji resurgence? Robert Olson at CheeseheadTV takes a look at how it could (key word there is “could”) happen. I never saw Raji as a jet pass rusher but the Packers tried to make him one and Raji wanted to be one. Maybe if he simply focuses and taking up space as a nose tackle, he can be effective (key word there is “maybe”).
- Speaking of rebounding in 2014, ALLGBP.com’s Kris Burke wonders if Morgan Burnett can bounce back.
Non Packers links and other Nonsense
- If you like football and you like to laugh your ass off, buy “Goodell vs. Obama,” a hilarious e-book from @PFTCommenter.
- 45 days to build the perfect Tweet, and it doesn’t even get re-tweeted? I could have come up with at least 7,169 Tweets in 45 days that also would not have been re-tweeted.
- Last week I closed this column with a link to a disturbing recap of the Ray Rice news conference where he tried to explain away knocking out his then fiance in an elevator. I’ll close this column with a sad, yet inspirational, story from Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams about his mother, who recently died from breast cancer. Please encourage your wives, mothers, sister, aunts friends and family to get regular mammograms.