Category Archives: Clay Matthews

29

July

Cory’s Corner: Mike McCarthy’s style is perfect for Packers

In eight seasons as the Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has an 82-45-1 record and a 6-5 playoff record. He has five double-digit win seasons.

In eight seasons as the Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has an 82-45-1 record and a 6-5 playoff record. He has five double-digit win seasons.

Mike McCarthy has been called a lot of things by a lot of people.

Some may not like his play-calling, while others may not prefer his player development.

But the Packers coach isn’t afraid to think out-of-the-box. How many NFL coaches are approaching NFL training camp with Jell-O? That’s right, the Bill Cosby snack has been infused into Packers practice.

It is evident that McCarthy is sick and tired of seeing nagging injuries pester his players. And if it takes a Jell-O cup and a granola bar to do it, so be it.

McCarthy is entering his ninth season as coach of the Packers. The reason he has been able to be successful is because he is willing to change. In 2006 he changed his practice routine and gave the players more of a break. Usually accustomed to practicing in the morning and afternoon, he slashed practices by only having one workout following days with two workouts.

Last year, McCarthy proved what kind of a coach he really is. The knock on McCarthy has been similar to Phil Jackson when he coached Michael Jordan — any coach can win with arguably the best player in the league in Aaron Rodgers. But the Packers started four different quarterbacks last year and McCarthy made them look pretty good.

Scott Tolzien started zero games coming into last season and McCarthy made him look decent, including lighting up the Giants for 339 yards. Matt Flynn, a career backup journeyman, turned out to be the savior by somehow getting wins against Atlanta and Dallas to keep the slim playoff hopes alive.

And the person that needs to get the credit for that is McCarthy. His preparation and more importantly his positive attitude continually flowed through this team, even though Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and others were hurting.

And as he proved a couple years ago that he isn’t afraid of taking a risk with an onside kick, fake field goal and fake punt all in the same season.

His biggest job right now is to develop wide receiving depth. It is unclear if Randall Cobb will be back with the Packers following Jordy Nelson’s extension. Also, it is unclear if Jarrett Boykin is in the team’s best interest as the Packers’ No. 3 receiver.

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21

June

Cory’s Corner: Pressure’s on for Morgan Burnett

Morgan Burnett has six interceptions in his four-year NFL career. He had zero last year.

Morgan Burnett has six interceptions in his four-year NFL career. He had zero last year.

Hopefully Morgan Burnett doesn’t read his press clippings, listen to the radio or watch TV.

Because after last season, there have been plenty of Packers fans that were incensed with his lackluster play.

Which is why the 25-year-old enters 2014 with the most to prove. Last July, I was shocked when the Packers gave him a four-year $24.75 million extension.

He has been serviceable, but it was questionable to give him that money when he never really wowed anyone on gameday.

And after he signed that deal, Burnett went out and laid an egg. No picks. No sacks. Just 66 tackles and three fumble recoveries.

Burnett has gone 24 games without an interception, which isn’t exactly high praise for a strong safety.

With all the beef the Packers now have tied up in their front seven, that will put even more pressure on the defensive backs to win one-on-one battles. Because if guys like Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are consistently getting pressure on the quarterback, imagine how frustrating it will be if coverage breaks down and drives are allowed to continue?

Now that the Packers picked safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix in the first round, Burnett not only needs to bring it on the field, he also must be a leader for a green secondary — aside from Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush.

Now, obviously the Packers didn’t give him that money just for last year. They would like a solid return on the entire investment. But the thing that is the most alarming is that Burnett never showcased that animal instinct that I saw when he was playing at Georgia Tech. Instead, he easily blended in with an average defense.

The Packers allowed five 300-plus yard passing games last year. Of those games, there were 13 touchdown passes.

The division games will be tough enough with the Lions adding Golden Tate alongside Calvin Johnson and the Bears’ murder’s row trio of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett is arguably the best fleet of pass catchers in the league.

Add in games against Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan and this secondary will be tested.

8

June

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers footba

If B.J. Raji and A.J. Hawk had a baby, he would fit in perfectly on the Packers defense.

(Pause)

Now that you’ve cleaned up the vomit and are fully recovered from the mental image of Hawk and Raji breeding, please continue reading:

All signs are pointing to Hawk starting at linebacker for the Green Bay Packers for the 9th consecutive season. Over the last eight years, Hawk has amassed 832 tackles, 18.5 sacks, nine interceptions and four forced fumbles.

If I were to ask you to name a memorable Hawk tackle or a key play where he forced a fumble or knocked down a pass, could you do it? I’m racking my brain right now and the only play I can come up with is when he sacked Sam Bradford in 2011 and flipped off the Packers bench.

That play was memorable, but not necessarily because of the impact it had on the game.

Raji had dollar signs in his eyes when he turned down a lucrative contract extension from the Packers midway through last season. Those dollar signs turned to tears after Raji’s play fell off a cliff, the extension offer was withdrawn, and Raji returned to Green Bay on a 1 year “prove-it” deal worth $4 million.

If I were to ask you to name a memorable play in Raji’s career, I guarantee everyone reading this will cite the pick-six against the Bears in the 2011 NFC title game and the ensuing Raji Dance. Raji also had 6.5 sacks in 2010 and occasionally gets featured in replays blowing up the center or pushing back a double team and wrecking a running play.

It’s safe to say both Hawk and Raji have failed to meet Packers’ fans expectations. Yes, Hawk is consistent, but with the No. 5 pick in the draft, Packers fans wanted a guy who scared the other team, not someone who’s just consistently ok. Raji has had moments of brilliance, but gets wiped off the line far too often and disappears for long stretches that lead to breakdowns in the Packers run defense.

Basically, if Hawk had some of Raji in him — an occasional flashy play that changed a game — and Raji had some of Hawk in him — more consistency — both players would be closer to meeting the expectations of Packers fans.

1

June

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

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):

Peppers

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.

Matthews

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.

6

May

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson averages a draft whiff a year

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 10th NFL Draft as the Packers general manager. He has been arguably the biggest lightning rod for criticism over the years.

There is inherent value in every round of the draft, but the most consistent value lies in rounds 1-3, which is where I also focus my attention.

Thompson did a masterful job early on. When you land a guy like Aaron Rodgers as your first pick to begin your new job, things are looking pretty good. He added safety Nick Collins and wide receiver Terrence Murphy, who were both forced to leave pro football early after suffering neck injuries.

The next year, Thompson did another excellent job by adding fifth overall pick in linebacker A.J. Hawk, second rounders in guard Daryn Colledge and wide receiver Greg Jennings and third round guard Jason Spitz. The only guy that was a question mark was third round linebacker Abdul Hodge because injuries forced him to only start one game in four NFL seasons.

But after hitting so many home runs in his first two seasons, Thompson was due for some whiffs. And that’s exactly what happened in 2007. Justin Harrell, arguably the worst pick of Thompson’s career, started just two of 14 games in his three-year career. It was a little head scratching that the Packers even used a first round pick on Harrell, who entered the league hurt after tearing his biceps at Tennessee.

Brandon Jackson is another strikeout. The former Nebraska track star/football player was able to play bit roles but is now looking for a job. James Jones gave the Packers a good return on its third-round investment. He proved he could start but was never capable of winning the top receiver job. The final whiff of 2007 is Aaron Rouse. The safety played just three seasons before signing with the now-defunct United Football League.

The following year, there were two more whiffs sandwiched in between a couple of home runs. Obviously, second rounder Jordy Nelson has carved out a pretty nice career as one of Rodgers’ go-to targets. However, second rounder Brian Brohm, after not being able to get comfortable with the speed of the NFL game, is now playing quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. The other miss was second round cornerback Patrick Lee, who only started one game in his Green Bay career. The other great get that Thompson secured was third rounder Jermichael Finley. Although his mouth got in the way early on, Finley was one of the most athletic tight ends in the game when healthy.

16

April

Matthews Still Recovering From Injury

Clay Matthews

Matthews says he will be ready for training camp. The Packers hope he’s right.

A recent conversation between Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and USA Today’s Tom Pelissero revealed that Matthews is still not 100% healed from a repeat thumb injury suffered late in the 2013 season.  ESPN’s Rob Demovsky featured the conversation in a recent article at ESPN.com.

Matthews explained, in more detail, what happened with each injury and how doctors chose to address the second break in December.  Here is an excerpt:

“And unfortunately, on a sack of Roethlisberger, the tip of my thumb [hit] my teammate’s helmet. All that pressure went down the cast, broke it again. So then, to make it tighter, we took part of the tendon, turned it around, drilled some holes and they almost tied a knot through. It’s stronger than [the left one]. Now it’s super tight.”

The Packers defense is just not the same without Matthews on the field.  Since appearing in at least 15 games in his first three seasons, Matthews has missed 11 games over the past two years, including last season’s wild card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.  Had the Packers advanced and made a serious push for a Super Bowl appearance, Matthews may have returned and played.

It still bears mentioning that a player who plays with the type of intensity as Matthews does is likely to be more vulnerable to injury.  Although Matthews says he will be ready by training camp, everyone heals differently.  The thumb can be a tricky injury with all of the bones and tendons connected to both the hand, wrist and arm.

Matthews should be able to make a return but even if he does and based on averages, he will likely miss some time this upcoming season for whatever reason.  The Packers need to prepare accordingly at the outside linebacker position.  With a healthy Matthews and Nick Perry, the possibilities are many and scary for opposing offenses.  But the “healthy” part has not come easy in the two seasons that tandem has existed.  They have appeared together in just 14 games over those two years.

15

April

Cory’s Corner: Julius Peppers is No. 56…remain excited

I’ve never seen a number unveiling get this much excitement.

And for those of you that may not know, Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next season for the Packers.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

That’s quite a change for someone that was consistently coming off the edge as a defensive end in a three-point stance wearing No. 90.

But Peppers isn’t just an end. Thanks to Dom Capers and his crazy names, which have brought us the ‘Psycho’ defensive package, Peppers will be playing a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker called an elephant.

Personally, I don’t care if you call it strawberry shortcake because the name of Peppers’ position is meaningless. His stats and his motor speak for themselves. He’s been under double-digit sacks in a season just four times in his 12-year career.

The thing I like about Peppers most is his drive. I realize that he’s 34 and might be reaching the final leg of a strong NFL career. But the last time he didn’t play a full 16-game season was in 2007. That really says a lot to me. Especially for a guy that has played through a sprained MCL in his left knee, a broken right hand and a right knee sprain among other things. And the season that he suffered his right knee sprain was in 2007, a season in which he tallied his lowest sack output of his career with 2½. Yet he still managed to lead the Panthers in quarterback hurries.

Peppers is a guy that the Packers desperately needed. He’s a guy that will come in and not only contribute with a pass rush that has been forgotten, but he’s a vocal veteran that wants to win.

That’s a great combination for a team that has youngsters like Nick Perry and Datone Jones, who the Packers are counting on to break out and flourish.

Is it fair to compare Peppers to the 31-year-old Reggie White when he signed with Green Bay? No way. And I’m surprised I’ve seen people even make that comparison because it’s not not even close. White was a once-in-a-lifetime pass rusher who may never be copied again.

But that doesn’t mean Peppers doesn’t have plenty to play for.