Cory’s Corner: We have seen the best of Clay Matthews

Clay Matthews made a mistake and was penalized 15 yards. Jim Harbaugh opened his mouth and sounded like an idiot.

Many Packers fans adore Clay Matthews. They love his energy, his post-sack theatrics and ability to make an offensive line melt.

But have we seen the best from the “Claymaker?”

The reason we have is because of the Bennett’s fracture. Matthews originally broke his thumb in Week 5 last year. And then in Week 16, he sacked Ben Roethlisberger but also rebroke the same right thumb.

He started 11 games last year — the lowest amount of his career. And that was coming off a season in which he started 12.

I realize he is saying all the right things. But he hasn’t done anything in OTAs and minicamp and in addition to his thumb problem, Matthews has had a relentless hamstring issue.

A thumb makes up about 50 percent of a hand’s function. How effective can Matthews possibly be if he has to wear a bulky club or even a brace? It’s not that easy for him to utilize his speed and quickness and offer up a swim move and a bull-rush will be a lot easier to block with a weaker thumb.

Matthews’s stats are amazing. He is averaging a sack 76 percent of the time when he starts. He made the Pro Bowl the first four years of his NFL career and he has also been a turnover machine with four picks and three fumble recoveries.

Yet, Matthews turned 28 in May. That isn’t old by any means, but it is a cause for concern for a guy that hasn’t started all 16 games of his five-year career. His body will not be able to keep resting injuries back to health like he once did. And I would be shocked if offensive linemen didn’t try to reinjure that right thumb at some point soon.

There are numerous examples of enlightenment after age 28. Michael Strahan set the single-season sack record at age 30 with 22½ and Jared Allen had the best season of his career at age 29 with 22 sacks. But none of those guys had an injury that had to be covered up just to play, while limiting effectiveness at the same time.

Matthews is one of the best defensive players the Packers have had in a long time. He only needs five more sacks to tie Tim Harris and move into third place in team history. When healthy, he is an instant problem for an entire offense by turning himself into a defensive bomb — blowing up even the most hopeful of offensive plays.

But of course, that’s the problem. Matthews hasn’t been 100 percent in a long time. He will play when he is close to ready, but he hasn’t been perfect in awhile. Which of course, only risks his future even more.

Matthews is a great player, which is why the Packers rewarded him with a five-year $66 million deal in the spring of 2013.

His heart is unquestioned. He has Sampson-like strength. But unfortunately, Matthews won’t be able to outrun and overpower recurring injuries.

In order for the Packers’ defense to break free of its mediocre chains, Matthews must play like its bell cow — which is why he was drafted 26th overall in 2009.

However, those days are in the rear view mirror.

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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  • Big T

    Cory, I agree with you 100%.

  • Pete K

    I’m more worried about the hamstring because with Matthews it’s his speed that sets him apart from other LBs.

  • Magic

    You don’t seem to understand that Bennett’s fracture is a broken bone. It’s not a nagging injury because he re-broke it after coming back to play too soon. Rodgers has a broken bone in his shoulder, is that a nagging injury too?
    Matthews missed 1/4 of a game last year because of his other ‘nagging’ injury.
    So a broken bone and 0.25 of a game and you’re saying his career can’t be any better?

  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    Matthews will have his best season ever as a Packer, even better than the 2010 season when he was robbed of the DPOY award. Why? Because for the first time he has some help, he doesn’t have to do it on his own. In the past teams would pound at Matthews with double and even triple teams. That won’t happen this year, not with Peppers, Daniels, Perry, Neal, and Jones, and not with the new Elephant position. Go ahead and double him because help WILL come from somewhere else. Sorry Cory, this will be Matthews finest season ever!

    • Sven

      Full agreement, and more improvement to come in the following years.

    • Stroh

      Other guys just have to get after the QB. Matthews gets double and occasionally triple teamed. When he gets a little help, he will have a more success. Hard for anyone to succeed when double teamed or more.

      Peppers will immediately draw interest from DC’s due to his history. Daniels is making a name for himself.

      There is a lot more to come from Matthews!

  • marpag

    Did they amputate his thumb?? Did someone say that he has to wear a club or a brace for the rest of his career? Do we have some medical evidence that this kind of injury generally results in a permanent lost of strength or a degenerative condition? Are we *really* taking such counsel of our fears that we fret about O-linemen trying to re-injure his thumb?

    I don’t get the angst. Or the logic.

  • Ferrari Driver

    I believe you are absolutely INCORRECT! He has the genes of his dad and uncle who long term his performers and to assert that a broken digit on a freak play will curtail his excellence is absurd.

    Clay has performed at the highest level while being the center of attention of every defensive coordinator the Packers have played. Ted Thompson has provided a few counterparts which will reduce the constant double teams and eliminate the triple teams Mathews has faced in every passing situation. Expect 10+ sacks this year and beyond.

  • Richard

    Wow, talk about “Mr. Over reaction” ..”I realize he is saying all the right things. But he hasn’t done anything in OTAs and minicamp and in addition to his thumb problem, Matthews has had a relentless hamstring issue” Haven’t heard of any hamstrings problems reported this camp & his thumb injury should not weaken his grip.

  • Archie

    Sorry I’m not buying that CMIII is on the way down. He is the shining light of this defense. W/o him the future for this defense would be bleak at best. One guy can’t do it all but he is the straw that stirs the drink. (Apologies to Reggie Jackson.)

  • http://WWW.HAGENSONSTV.COM Trent

    This is a TEAM sport!!! The Pack will be dominant for the next few years!

  • Tarynfor12

    The defense the last few years was essentially based on how Matthews played and any time lost hurt,though more so in the eyes of some and less in others.

    However,’if’ a couple of others do indeed fulfill expectations,whether of the previous or anew,the defense should be able too flow more steadily whether Matthews misses games or not this season.

    If the defense proves again to be cliff bound,it will not be because of the lack of help for Matthews,the rather complicated Capers playbook or even the number of injuries suffered,since this defense appears to have increased depth,even at Safety based on previous,hence poor play by the defense will be caused by ‘poor play’ in which the circle of finger pointing will be amok.

  • Chad Lundberg

    I won’t call you any names Cory, but golly, you have got to be kidding me.

    The pass rushing role has solely fallen on Matthews for the past 3 years, thus his two low seasons (2011, 2013) and his constant injuries.

    When there actually is another consistent pass rusher, Matthews dominates like no other, plus he manages to stay far more healthy. Cullen Jenkins proved that.

    I just can’t believe you’re saying that it’s basically all down hill from here just because of a thumb injury. I wouldn’t be upset if you brought it up as a question or debate but no, you are STATING that it is a FACT.

    Please think of more interesting subjects than this. I love this site but you guys have not wrote up to your standards recently. I hope that changes in September when the season is officially underway.

  • http://www.packernation.org PackerNation

    I agree with Cory. This is a guy who averages 2.7 tackles per game and is finding it increasingly difficult to stay healthy. The OTs he goes up against continue to get younger, bigger, and better.

    Love Clay Matthews, he’s a very good defender, but we’ve seen the best we’re ever going to see out of him.

    • iccyfan

      I also happen to agree with Cory; for all of you leaving “dislike” ratings, nobody has said Matthews stinks or even that the Packers should “trade him while he still has high value”. Matthews will continue to be one of my favorites – I just don’t expect him to be the “bell cow” of our D this year or the years to come. His style of play is not like that of his father or uncle and leads to injuries, which limit his effectiveness. I don’t say it as “fact”, but I believe it to be reality…

  • hank

    Corrry this is the best thing you have ever written.

    • Stroh

      Your kidding right?!! Please say your kidding…

  • BradHTX

    A Bennett’s fracture is a break in the first metacarpal bone, the one that is inside the hand, not the sticking-out part of the thumb. Typically the part closest to the carpals (wrist bones) is broken. The long-term prognosis after proper surgery is that some loss of hand strength and osteoarthritis are very likely.

    What does that mean for CM3? Well, as he ages his hand is probably going to hurt. Does it mean his career is in jeopardy, or even that he’s going to be permanently less effective? Hardly.

    Move along, folks. As usual, nothing to see here.

    • Michael

      I have the same fracture and it is in an area that gets little blood flow to enhance the healing process. It could be an issue with his hand that will recur. But it is also an injury that is playable. And yes there will be arthritis in the long term. A thumb immobilizer brace will help without loosing much grip. But jamming the thumb will incur pain not matter what.

      • Stroh

        I had a Bennetts fracture a couple years ago. The bone heals properly when its gets attached correctly. Once its fixed correctly, it won’t be a problem during his football career, but easily could be when he’s 60 yrs old.

        The issue w/ Matthews was when he rebroke it and needed the 2nd surgery. When they did the 2nd surgery they adjusted the ligaments to help hold the thumb in place more securely. That might limit his thumb flexibility to some degree, but we don’t know how much. However I don’t think it will affect his grip strength, which is what really matters in his case.

        Jamming the thumb won’t hurt anymore for Matthews than anyone else as long as it isn’t broken again.

        • BradHTX

          Out of curiosity, Stroh, how’d you break it? I’m newly in a health related field, and learning a lot about sports injuries.

          • Big T

            He was sticking his thumb in the wrong place at the wrong time.

          • Stroh

            Broke it mountain biking when I wiped out. Mine healed fine and no issues to date. Maybe lost 5% ROM. Back mtn biking by 3 months.

  • Stroh

    Broke it mountain biking when I wiped out. Mine healed fine and no issues to date. Maybe lost 5% ROM. Back mtn biking by 3 months.

  • GBPDAN

    Clay will make the pro bowl this year