Matthews’ Confidence Grows After Big Debut

Clay Matthews disputes his brother's comments that he didn't like playing inside linebacker. With one incredibly productive game under his belt, Matthews said he has warmed to the change after lacking a bit of confidence at this point last week. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Maybe brother knows best.

Or maybe he’s just trying to stir the pot.

On Wednesday, Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews told Philadelphia Daily News writer Les Bowen that he didn’t think his famous brother, the Green Bay Packers’ Clay Matthews, “liked too much about” about moving from outside to inside linebacker for last week’s game against Chicago.

On Thursday, Matthews had his chance to offer a rebuttal.

“I got some heat from a few of the guys around here about that,” Matthews said of his younger brother’s comments. “No, there’s not much truth to that. I think any time there’s a position change, there’s some hesitation, obviously, with what I was comfortable doing. I think any time you’re put in position to make plays like that week, it’s not only going to benefit yourself, but it’s going to benefit the defense, as well. Yeah, in a perfect world, I’d love to line up outside 100 percent of the time, get sacks, but we were able to do that from a different position. It worked out.”

Worked out, indeed. By the coaches’ count, Matthews matched his career high with 10 tackles and added one sack.

“Two sacks,” Matthews pointed out – though one was taken away because of his illegal tackle.

Either way, it was Matthews’ best game of the season and perhaps the Packers’ best defensive game of the season.

“You put someone in positions to make plays like that, and you come up with making those plays, you’re obviously a little more warm to the idea of playing those different personnel changes,” Matthews said. “If I had no action the other night, I’d probably be saying, ‘Hey, put me at safety or somewhere where you can figure out how I can get after the ball.’ No, I think that’s what we were going for. I think it worked out.”

This week, coach Mike McCarthy said Matthews is not an inside linebacker. On Thursday, Matthews and defensive coordinator Dom Capers did their best to disguise the defensive game plan for Sunday’s game. Nonetheless, it would be a total shock to not see Matthews at inside linebacker against the Eagles. He adds a bigger, stronger player to the middle of the defense while allowing Julius Peppers, Mike Neal and Nick Perry to get more snaps at outside linebacker.

“He’s just a really good all-around football player,” Capers said. “He’s got the physical ability but his intelligence and football instincts, his ability to adapt, we’ve used him in a lot of different ways. You guys have seen that over the six years that we’ve had him. He’s played in there some, probably not to the extent that we did this last week, but what you saw was what I think we hoped to see with him moving in there. He had a very productive game. The first one out, you never really know quite what to expect, and we knew that offense was a good offense, but I think he really impacted the game in really every spot. When he was outside, he had good rushes, had the sack and had another sack taken away on the penalty. You saw him play the run coming off the edge. So, yeah, he’s just a good all-around football player. If he’d been playing inside there from the first day, I think he’d have gone to the same number of Pro Bowls as he has outside.”

Considering his instant impact upon arriving in Green Bay as a first-round pick and his four Pro Bowls in five seasons, Matthews has never lacked for confidence. However, the fear of the unknown weighed on him a bit before last week, with only two true practices to get ready. With an impact game and another week of practice behind him, Matthews should only feel more comfortable should he line up in the middle against the Eagles’ explosive offense.

“I think from a confidence level in myself, it wasn’t the highest just because I had a week’s worth of preparation going into the game,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve had several years of pass rushing and work at that outside linebacker position. You never know how it’s going to turn out, especially in live action when you’re not going against scout team or your defense or walk-through. That being said, it obviously worked out well. Everything was as planned. I got a lot of help from A.J. (Hawk) in there, as well as my safeties, getting me lined up at times (and) just confirming what my job responsibility was out there. That made it a lot easier. Obviously, the way the game went was kind of a perfect transition into that position.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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