It’s become apparent that Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews will be coming at quarterbacks from places other than just his customary spot at right outside linebacker.
Matthews rushed the quarterback from the inside linebacker position several times during minicamp, a move that appears to be part of the evolution of Dom Capers’ defense in its second year. Capers was using inside linebacker Brandon Chillar and defensive end Cullen Jenkins at outside linebacker during minicamp, as well. So, it appears just about anyone 305 or under could be rushing from just about anywhere on any play.
Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on Matthews because he was by far the Packers best pass rusher in 2009 with 10 sacks. After Matthews were Jenkins with 4.5 and outside linebacker Brad Jones and inside linebacker Nick Barnett, both with 4.
This recap of Tuesday’s practice came from Brian Carriveau.
As he indicated, Matthews would hit the A-gap (between center and guard) on cross-dog blitzes with A.J. Hawk lining up next to him on the inside during the walk-through portion of practice.
At another point Brandon Chillar would line up at Matthews’ usual right outside linebacker position with Matthews on the inside off the line of scrimmage. The former rookie Pro Bowler would then shift just to the inside of Chillar on the line and then stunt, with Matthews rushing from the outside and Chillar taking an inside route.
At one point during live team drills today, the Packers used a nickel-like 2-4-5 personnel package that featured B.J. Raji and Mike Neal on the defensive line, Chillar, Hawk, Matthews and Poppinga as the linebackers, and Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett and Brandon Underwood in the defensive backfield.
That particular personnel is very similar to what the Packers used in nickel situations in the past but had Matthews lining up on the inside. It’s very possible that grouping has a moniker like “Big Okie” or “Psycho,” but just isn’t known to the public yet.
The Packers also used that very same personnel on one occasion on Tuesday with one substition, Desmond Bishop in for Neal. It had the feel of last year’s “Psycho” package but Raji (instead of Jenkins) played in a three-point stance with the five linebackers threatening to blitz from multiple locations.
The Packers defense could be very interesting this season, especially with opposing offenses not quite knowing where Matthews is going to be on passing downs.