Through two games, the Green Bay Packers are 2-0. The offense has been extraordinary and the defense has been solid. But, one important winning element has been missing — a pass rush.
A season ago, the Green Bay Packers defense was one of the best in the business at sacking the opposing team’s quarterback. The team finished with a total of 41, which is slightly more than 2.5 per game. This season, Green Bay has just two sacks in two games and Clay Matthews, who led the Packers in 2014 with 11, has zero.
Part of this is by design, especially in light of the Packers matchup with Seattle. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was conservative rushing Seahawks QB Russell Wilson because of his ability to escape the pocket. Matthews also was used to spy Wilson at times as well as in coverage plenty.
Also in the Seattle game, Matthews, for the first time in his seven-year career, did not play a single snap at outside linebacker.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Clay inside. He’s tremendous against the run and showed his coverage skills with his game-changing interception vs the Bears. Yet, even though he’s needed at ILB with the injury to Sam Barrington, he’s also needed for his pass-rush skills.
Green Bay has a solid array of pass rushers even without Matthews with Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, B.J. Raji and Jayrone Elliot.
Yet, no player on the defense, not even Peppers, who had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble against Chicago, is as dangerous as Matthews. And if the Packers defense is really going to reach a championship level, it needs Matthews attacking quarterbacks.
Whether it’s blitzing from the inside or lining up as an edge rusher on third down, Matthews needs more pass-rush opportunitties and if he gets them, the Packers’ defense will be the beneficiary.