The Green Bay Packers defense struggled immensely last season. They addressed their secondary via the NFL Draft, but one veteran linebacker believes there is another part of the defense that needs work.
Clay Matthews is entering his 10th season in the NFL. He is coming off a year in which he started 14 games, recording 27 tackles and 7.5 sacks. His 7.5 sacks were the most recorded since 2014. This upcoming season, Matthews will be in his final year of his five-year, $66 million contract.
At 32 years old, Matthews has shown signs of declining. The last two seasons he has battled through hamstring, groin and shoulder injuries. He isn’t nearly as explosive or productive as he once was.
With that being said, he has officially put a huge target on his back and the entire unit to play at a higher level this upcoming season.
“You look at the depth at the outside-linebacker position, and it’s not that great,” Matthews told ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. “That’s not a slight to the guys who are behind Nick (Perry) and myself, but you look around the league, a lot of times they’re rotating in pass-rushers.”
Is Matthews right? He absolutely is. Other than himself and Nick Perry, the outside linebacker group consists of Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel and Reggie Gilbert. Last season, the three combined for 27 tackles and four sacks. A majority of that production came from Fackrell, who played in 16 games.
Since being drafted by the Packers in 2012, Perry has yet to play a full season because of injuries. A year after signing a monster contract, Perry only played in 12 games and was placed on injured reserve before the season finale. His ankle injury is still an issue and caused him to miss the first day of OTAs. If Matthews or Perry are sidelined at all this season, this unit will feel the pressure — and that is a distinct possibility.
Green Bay could have and should have improved this group by selecting Marcus Davenport, whom the New Orleans Saints selected after swapping picks with the Packers, or even Tremaine Edmunds, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills.
If Green Bay would have selected one of those dynamic rushers, the unit would still lack experience behind Matthews and Perry. But both of those prospects have higher upside compared to the current depth chart.
Even though Matthews claims he is fine with the team’s decision to address the secondary with its first two picks, it is evident he would have liked some extra support.
By making these comments, Matthews has publicly invited all of the Packers’ opponents to plan on further exposing this weakness. He, along with Perry, will need to remain healthy and be productive. If not, it will play a role in the team’s overall success.