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Matthews And Raji Expected To Improve Pass Rush

Jay Cutler sucks, but that's beside the point.

NFL players generally improve from their rookie year to their second year.

The Green Bay Packers are counting on just that to improve their pass rush in 2010, according to Dan Arkush.

The Packers ranked 12th in the league in sacks in 2009, which isn’t bad. At the same time, no one would really consider Green Bay to be a dominant pass rushing unit.

Outside of Clay Matthews, no one on the Packers registered double digits in sacks. Cullen Jenkins was second on the team with 4.5 sacks.

Before the draft, quite a few observers were clamoring for the Packers to add another pass rusher at outside linebacker. The Packers, of course, didn’t address the position at all, instead opting to let second-year man Brad Jones continue to develop.

The team’s lack of action left more than a few of us scratching our heads, but the coaching staff seems to believe Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji, last year’s top draft choice, will help the Packers generate more of a pass rush by their improvement alone.

Start with Matthews, who genuinely believes the sky’s the limit for him after bulking up to 261 pounds this offseason courtesy of the MMAthletics workout regimen endorsed on a national scale by Fox football insider/workout fiend Jay Glazer.

Matthews said he was “in the best shape of my life!!” in a recent Twitter message. Considering that he didn’t crack the starting lineup as a rookie until Week Four a truly special sophomore campaign could be fast approaching.

An equally big reason for optimism, we hear, is fellow ’09 first-rounder B.J. Raji, who is widely expected to greatly improve the interior pass rush as the team’s new starting nose tackle.

Raji takes over the starting nose tackle role from Ryan Pickett, who was moved to defensive end in preparation for Johnny Jolly’s potential suspension/prison sentence. The move was a good one, as Jolly was suspended indefinitely by the NFL on Friday.

Raji’s presence in the starting lineup still does nothing to address the constant double teams Matthews faced last season. Jones will also have to show marked improvement to take some of the pressure off Matthews for this plan to play out.

If he doesn’t, the Packers may be forced to pressure the quarterback like they did last year — with smoke and mirrors.


Monty McMahon

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.



  1. jeremy July 17, 2010

    Sure the Packers sacks were good last year but there is one stat that gets overlooked because it is not an official NFL stat. The four teams in the Conference Championships last year all had around 170-185 qb pressures. The Packers had 146. This were you see a big difference between Jones and Kampman, Even though he wasn’t sacking the QB a lot, he had a ton of QB pressures. Anyone else remember Kurt Warner standing back there all day? Hopefully Jones learns how to be as disruptive around the qb as Kampman was.

    If you think 30 pressures doesn’t sound like much it is. Take 30 completions away and most qb’s completion percentages would drop by 10%. That’s the difference between Drew Brees and Alex Smith.

  2. Nick July 17, 2010

    If Jones or Pickett step up in any way I’m not worried, because anyone on the field with them will be playing at a high level. Clay Matthews is a BEAST. And I remember a CB making regular play on the QB weather it was sacks or picks. I’m just saying there is talent on that D, and just one more guy stepping up pretty much complets that Defense. The only concerns are corner and LB.

  3. Packer Pete July 20, 2010

    Getting Jenkins to the QB more will be a key. He has the potential to be a force. Nose tackles don’t register high sack totals because of constant double teams. Pickett will be a run defender. I thought the ILB blitzes improved quite a bit later in the season. The 3-4 is supposed to generate pressure by sending one or two LBs every down, not just Clay Matthews play after play. I’d like to see Capers really cut it loose this season.

    I do think we will miss Jolly, especially in run defense.