Right move: Packers LB Matthews to switch sides
The Sports Xchange
10:34 a.m. CDT, May 23, 2012
Outside linebacker Clay Matthews collected most of his 29.5 sacks lined up on the left side, but he's on the move to make room for rookie Nick Perry.
Matthews and Perry will be interchangeable, but the base formation calls for Matthews to move to right outside linebacker. He'll take on more elite pass blockers, but Perry's size and mass make him the ideal fit on the “power” side of the defensive formation.
“It's all about mismatches and preferable lineups,” Matthews said Tuesday. “Whenever we can take advantage of that, playing on the right side, left side, middle, wherever you want me to play, we're all about that, so I hope that's the case.”
The goal of defensive coordinator Dom Capers is to move Matthews around the formation to take advantage of his explosiveness off the snap. Capers has devised an expanded role at multiple positions for other players, including cornerback Charles Woodson. Woodson often is charged with what he called “playing the quarterback” than he is manning a single position.
Using Matthews as a pass-rush specialist and sliding him around the formation wouldn't be a new approach. Whereas past generations relied on right defensive ends and outside linebackers to be the superior pass rushers on the defense, getting pressure from all sides is becoming the norm.
“Things have changed a little bit (in that regard),” agreed Denver coach John Fox. “The rush doesn't always come from the right side, like it used to. People are getting lots of pressure anymore from the (left) side as well.”
Fox should know. His prize rookie, Von Miller, played primarily on the strong side, rushing generally from the left edge of the defense, in 2011.
The league's reigning defensive rookie of the year, Aldon Smith of San Francisco produced some of his 14 sacks in ‘11 from the left side. Philadelphia left end Jason Babin collected 18 sacks season, and he has 30.5 with the Eagles in 2011 and with Tennessee in 2010, while rushing from the left side.