To any Packers fan that watched the Packers 2010 Super Bowl run, Clay Matthews will always have a great legacy. Flash forward to Week 1 of the 2018 season, and even the most casual fan can tell that Clay Matthews has taken a giant step back. Now 32 years old, Matthews is playing out the final year of his 5 year 66 million dollar contract. He carries a cap hit of 11.3 million dollars this season, per Spotrac.
All cap numbers aside, Matthews performance on Sunday night begs the question “Should Reggie Gilbert be starting in Clay’s place?”. Gilbert flashed some talent at the end of last season and has since blown up in preseason. Gilbert was in plenty of snaps against Chicago, but Matthews seemed to get more snaps in addition to the start.
The simple fact is that if Gilbert is outplaying Matthews, he should obviously be starting. Gilbert clearly outplayed Clay Matthews in Week 1. Matthews was lowest graded edge defender in the entire league by Pro Football Focus last week. It just makes a ton of sense to play your better performing young edge rusher more than your aging veteran. Apart from the talent differential, one way of getting good reps out of Matthews would be resting and allowing him to be more of a situational rusher. You could also play Matthews off ball as a linebacker, the position he made the pro bowl playing in 2015 and performed well at in 2014.
Under the current circumstances, the Packers could give Matthews a week or two to bounce back. I cannot imagine he was content with his performance from week 1. He will be a player to keep an eye on this week. I watched him and Gilbert closely on the coaches tape, and what a saw was telling. Lets take a look at some plays from this weeks game…
Here you will see Matthews lined up as the right outside linebacker. The bears dial-up a read option with Mitch Trubisky and Jordan Howard. As you can see, Matthews bites extremely hard inside and it opens a huge hole for Trubisky to score a touchdown.
This is from the final drive of the game for the Bears. It is 3rd down with 9 yards to go. Gilbert is lined up at left outside linebacker, on the right side of this clip. He shoots inside at Kyle Long for a quick pressure, forcing a bad pass from Trubisky and a 4th down in a crucial point in the game.
This is a play we all took notice of. 4th down with the game on the line, and Clay Matthews commits a down right dumb roughing the passer penalty. This negated a 4th down stop by the Packers. A play like this would be more excusable from a young player, but not a seasoned vet like Clay Matthews. On the bright side, he was able to get a decent pass rush on this play.
This play is also a 3rd down at a crucial point in the game. I would like point out a couple of things on this play. First check out Clay Matthews pass rush, he falls on the ground and a complete non factor. Falling on the ground was a problem for him in this game. Now watch Reggie Gilbert covering Tarik Cohen (29) out of the backfield. There is mixed reviews on this play from Gilbert. I thought that Gilbert did an excellent job of taking the route away long enough to keep him out of the end zone, but he is beat deep. Overall a good rep from Gilbert against one of the better receiving running backs in the league.
Matthews lost back side contain on a few different plays, and this is no different. Matthews takes a bad angle and it results in extra yards for the Bears. These are the types of mistakes a veteran shouldn’t be making, but Matthews made plenty of them on tape.
I think you will see Matthews start against the Vikings. Everyone has their bad games, and I think that was probably the worst one of Clay Matthews career. He could bounce back, but that isn’t necessarily likely. The position battle between him and Gilbert will be one to watch in the coming weeks. Personally I would be playing Gilbert more snaps in order to get him more experience, especially if he continues to outplay Matthews. The Packers coaching staff may not see it that way however.
Have an opinion on the postion battle at OLB? Let us know in the comments or tweet at us @PTTF_Podcast. I have plenty more film clips posted on my twitter page @TrackOnPack, if you’d like to check those out. Be sure to check out the ads for our sponsor Sioux City Jerky also. They just unveiled a Packers themed flavor “Tundra Teriyaki” on their website. Thanks for reading, GPG!