If Lattimore is out, should the Packers move Matthews to inside linebacker?

Clay Matthews

Am I crazy to think that the Green Bay Packers should consider moving Clay Matthews to inside linebacker if Jamari Lattimore is out for a significant amount of time?

It probably won’t happen, but here’s why I think the Packers should at least think about it:

  • It would get Brad Jones off the field. The Packers had nobody else to plug in once Lattimore went down Sunday, so they were stuck using Jones at inside linebacker. Once again, it was obvious that Jones does not belong on the field. Moving Matthews inside would keep Jones out of the starting lineup and on the sidelines.
  • In their limited roles, Nick Perry and Mike Neal have been solid. Perry is strong at the point and sets a good edge against the run. Neal disappears for stretches, but also has stretches where he gets after the quarterback. Between the two of them, I think they could hold down the outside linebacker spot opposite Julius Peppers if Matthews moved inside.
  • Matthews is struggling outside. It’s been a quiet season for Matthews, especially after he injured his groin against Detroit. He’s not getting after the quarterback, he’s not setting the edge against the run or read-option and ballcarriers have no problem cutting it back inside on Matthews when they encounter him in space.
  • When I watch Matthews play, it seems like he’d fit well inside. His over-aggressiveness hurts him at times on the outside. In tight spaces inside, that aggressiveness combined with Matthewss’ athleticism I think would help him sort through trash and make plays, something we haven’t seen from a Packers inside linebacker since Desmond Bishop.

Cons to moving Matthews inside include his lack of discipline being a liability and the usual concerns about having a player switch positions midseason. Asking a player with groin/hamstring issues to run around and cover tight ends and running backs might also be a bad idea. The Packers also don’t want to overreact to a rough stretch of games for Matthews. There’s a good chance he’s just in a slump outside and will snap out of it soon.

I highly doubt we’ll see Matthews take any more snaps than he usually does at inside linebacker, but it’s an intriguing option. The Packers should do whatever they can to keep Jones off the field.


Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .


42 thoughts on “If Lattimore is out, should the Packers move Matthews to inside linebacker?

  1. The problem I see is with his coverage skills. They’re ok enough to cover the flat, but downfield? I don’t think so. He’d also have to learn the techniques, the keys, … all over again.

    At this point, I’d let him rest. He’s always been this aggressive, but he could compensate with his agility and burst. It’s not there right now. Use him on 3rd downs or take him out of the game altogether.

    1. This is really only a problem on early downs. In obvious passing situations, they’d go to a sub package that would move him out of the middle, I would think.

  2. Why not give Bradford a shot inside? I watched his tape at Ariz St. and his measurables didn’t project to OLB. But his gonzo style of play and size would be well suited for ILB. Don’t know if he can cover though….
    As far as CMIII, I’d prefer to keep him outside. Don’t want to see Peppers getting too many snaps throughout the year. Keep him fresh for the stretch.
    CMIII biggest problem is constantly taking himself out of plays by over pursing. Else, I think he’ll get home on the pass rush as the year goes on. Not ready to move him inside yet.

    1. I agree on Bradford and would not be surprised to see him activated this week. He has a very lively motor just like Matthews and Daniels. We need playmakers on defense at middle linebacker at this point. Guys that attack the ball not sit back and react!! We have Hawk for that job.

      The only guy left is Bradford unless Barrington is healthy which I don’t think he is. Put Bradford in this week against Carolina and get him going. It’s time to take the diapers off this guy as Dick Vermeil once said about Larry Johnson.

      So far Bradford is one of the few rookies left not to get any playing time or even be activated. Matthews does play the middle at times and it wouldn’t be a bad idea but we all know it’s not going to happen. Matthews’ problem as usual is he’s hurt and that’s why he’s being noticed. He’s looking too damn normal. I’d rather they just sit him for a week or two then we wouldn’t be having this discussion about putting him in the middle.

    2. Bradford played well at ASU as an end/rusher. His coverage skills were below-average. Todd Graham had him in coverage for a stretch last season and it didn’t go well. Graham admitted he questioned himself and why he didn’t allow Bradford to do what he does best, react.

      Still, he hasn’t proven that he can play at the NFL level yet. He’s still learning the ILB spot. My guess is that it’s about how he’s performing in practice right now. He likely gets very few reps and isn’t doing enough with those to garner more playing time.

      1. Well Jason, this is the week the Packers need to give him as many reps as he can get. They don’t have many options left. They got Pennel, Luther Robinson, Linsley, Dix, Adams, Rodgers, and Janis going, I think they can do the same with Bradford. He did pretty will in that final preseason game at middle linebacker. Had lot of tackles. This is the perfect game to get his feet wet at middle linebacker. Who knows, he just might be the answer but we won’t know unless we give him the opportunity.

        1. I agree. In a 16 game schedule there is little time to waste really and not much time for classroom, play them and see what they can do. No way to know until they play in a real game. Sometimes, you are forced to, so why wait.

          1. Yep Tundra, injuries can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Raji and Boyd got hurt and Pennel and Robinson step up. Tretter? Hello Cory Linsley. Boykin? Hello Davante Adams.
            Now Lattimore. We know what Jones can do. We need more. I personally hope Barrington is ready because he’s a physical guy like Desmond Bishop but if he’s not ready than hell yeah, get Bradford all the reps in practice this week and give the guy a chance. He can’t be much worse than Jones.

      2. “Graham admitted he questioned himself and why he didn’t allow Bradford to do what he does best, react.”

        React – just what a good ILB should do.

        “Still, he hasn’t proven that he can play at the NFL level yet.”
        How do you know? He hasn’t proven he can play yet because he hasn’t played yet. Can’t be much worse the Jones.

        1. Exactly, he hasn’t played which means the coaching staff, who see him every day, don’t think he’s ready to play, ergo, he hasn’t proven that he can play at this level yet!

          1. You mean the same coaching staff that kept Lattimore on the bench in favor of Brad Jones?

            1. For 1 game and immediately pulled the plug. A lot of guys “win” jobs in camp and lose them early on. The “Brad Jones as starting ILB”, as we know it, is over.

      3. Well if Bradford can’t play in coverage then the Pack must be grooming him to replace Hawk, because AJ has been a liability against the pass for nearly a decade now — including on a crucial 4th quarter play when Jarvis Landry made him look like a fool yesterday.

        Get Bradford out on passing downs and let him play aggressively against the run.

  3. Teams have adapted to his style of play and they plan accordingly. (not being 100% healthy doesn’t help him either), He has become somewhat predictable. If you know where he is going to be, he is pretty easy to deal with. He comes crashing hard from the outside, give him a little shove and he misses the qb by about 7 yards. Or a little play action his way and guarantee he over pursues by about 10 yards.( he used to be fast enough to compensate and still make the play) The man plays with heart but physically can’t match that anymore. We have to face the fact that he will be playing injured the rest of his career. Nature of the Beast. Maybe ILB is the way to go with him.

  4. Bottom line is that we don’t know if Matthews is playing hurt or not. He made a few play yesterday including a blocked pass. Before we do anything with CM3 we need to know the status of Lattimore and our 2 starting CBs. If they both go down, we’ll need Matthews on the outside to get pressure on the QB to help out our backup CBs. After Tennerhill’s 40 yard run CM3 became focused on contain so they ran inside on him. Where was the DE, NT and ILB on those plays. They were usually blown out and did not hold the point. Fotunately, our safeties, especially Dix were able to make tackles and keep the Dolphins from some really big runs. While I agree that Matthews has not been great lately we have other defenders who need to make plays. We have bigger problems on defense right now, e.g., Brad Jones, Hawk and possibly losing our 2 starting CBs. Thanks, Since ’61

  5. How Brad Jones has not only stayed on this team, but has been a starter making the kind of bank he is, is going to occupy a place in Packer lore as an inexplicable phenomena, along the lines of how dark matter works.

  6. Noooooooooooooooooooo!!!

    No way. Matthews is a pass rusher, and this is a passing league. He needs to play in the most advantageous position for a pass rusher. That’s on the outside.

    Not counting 2014, Matthews has averaged exactly 10 sacks per year. That’s awesome. That’s *historically* good. That’s shaping up as one of the most productive sackers EVER.

    Let’s look at the 100 players (active or retired) who have the most sacks in their careers. How many of those great pass rushers averaged more than 10 sacks a season? Fourteen… in the whole history of the NFL.

    Here are the names of the players who have a higher average number of sacks per year than Clay Matthews III:

    D. Ware – 13.4 per year
    Reggie – 13.2
    Jared Allen – 12.95
    Derrick Thomas – 12.6
    Kevin Green – 11.4
    Bruce Smith – 11.1
    Simeon Rice – 11.1
    Lawrence Taylor – 11
    Chris Doleman – 10.75
    John Randle – 10.6
    Leslie O’Neal – 10.2
    Michael Strahan – 10.1
    Robert Mathis – 10.1
    Julius Peppers – 10.04

    Not a bad crew there, huh? Any of these guys play middle linebacker?

    In five years CMIII was four times a pro-bowler and once an all-pro. As the names and numbers above would seem to indicate, these guys don’t come along very often.

    I suggest we keep Matthews on the outside.

  7. The images that are being viewed through the fun house mirrors are not ‘totally’ real and should never be taken seriously nor ‘totally’ discarded as future ugly truths but considered carefully and thus preventing unneeded cosmetic surgery.

    The play of Perry and Matthews recently are prime examples of a view via those fun house mirrors. 🙂

  8. Ive been thinking this may play to hawks strength–while Clay is reckless in middle-u have dependable hawk in middle protecting clays perverbial backside. Hawk , meanwhile misses what clay can bring
    inside–the reckless abandon and speed, power .

  9. It really looks to me like Matthews is playing injured. There were one or two times I can remember where all he had to to do was keep up with runner to make the tackle, but man he was SLOW and was beat. It may be the groin injury, it may be something else. Remember, he had a stress fracture in his left leg in the 2010 season that wasn’t even revealed until the 2011 season.

  10. While we’re talking about experiments, I can’t help but think about putting the 6’7″ Julius Peppers at TE, like the Texans did with Watt not too long ago. Just a snap or two.

    Or have Sam Shields at WR. Shields has the speed of DeSean Jackson and he played WR in college. And with that kind of speed, I would say give him a snap at RB, but the run blocking has been absolutely abysmal thus far.

    Again, just a snap or two.

      1. Pretty sure you saw Mike McCarthy’s joke about having practice with the offense that week. He was complimenting what a great job he did with the interception return. He was kidding.

  11. If Shields and Williams can’t go, maybe we can activate Rolle to play dime. Oh wait….

        1. Or we already understand. One was a draft pick, and one wasn’t. Maybe draft picks are favored more than a “smidgen.”

      1. Apparently the coaching staff and personnel staff believes Goodson’s upside is higher than Rolle’s. Neither was projected to play much this year anyway. This is about developing the better player for next year.

  12. Right, lets take the guy we are paying as a premier pass rusher and play him in a slam-bang MLB spot. Makes a lot of sense. Lets take away that part of the gameplan that the opposing coach needs to account for. Clay Matthews? Whatever, McCarthy is playing him as a run stuffing MLB, lets air it out today.

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