GREEN BAY—Clay Matthews doesn’t think all the moving around he’s doing on defense this season is fooling opposing offenses.
But he does believe they’re paying attention, and the hope is that making the opponent constantly have to scheme and adjust to his location will pay off in the long run for the Packers defense.
“I don’t sense confusion, I sense that they know where I’m at, and I think that’s exactly what we expect from them,” Matthews said on Wednesday. “I think what’s most important is not staying stagnant.”
There’s been nothing repetitive about Matthews’ game thus far in 2014. He has lined up plenty at his traditional pass-rushing edge spot, of course, but he has also stepped off the line of scrimmage as a strong-side linebacker and roamed into the middle, to attack or to drop back in coverage.
He says he’s fine with the various duties and alignments, even if it means he might have a harder time reaching double digits in sacks, which he’s accomplished three times in his career. He does have one sack thus far, chasing down backup Jets QB Michael Vick on his one snap last Sunday at Lambeau Field, and he had a half-sack (shared with Julius Peppers) wiped out by a teammate’s penalty in Seattle.
Even though his all-out rush snaps may be reduced somewhat with how he’s being used, Matthews relishes the chance to prove he’s a defender that “can do it all.” He added that the theory behind his constant movement is to create mismatches, such as when a tight end or running back has to block him, and then pouncing on that chance.
“Look no further than Charles when he was here,” Matthews said, referring to Charles Woodson, who won the league’s defensive player of the year award in Matthews’ rookie season of 2009. “The fact that he’s able to cover, rush off the edge, come up the middle, I think you have to use your athletes in a special way, and that’s what we’re doing here.”
The special player on offense thus far is obviously receiver Jordy Nelson. Through two games, he leads the NFL in both receptions (18, tied with New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham) and yards (292) following his career-high 209-yard outing last Sunday.
It’s unusual to see a single Packers receiver put up such lofty statistics, because quarterback Aaron Rodgers has normally spread the wealth amongst all his pass-catchers. Nelson has been the target on 30 of Rodgers’ 75 pass attempts so far.
Rodgers attributes that to both the Seahawks and Jets playing a lot of single-high safety coverage, which has left Nelson singled up on the outside.
“When your primary is winning his one-on-one battle, you’re going to get the football,” Rodgers said.
Does that mean double coverage is coming Nelson’s way? The seventh-year receiver says it’s “wait and see.”
“We’ll adjust to whatever’s out there,” Nelson said. “We’ll go with the flow, I guess. I don’t think we’re going to worry about the targets, to be honest with you, I think we’re just going to go with what the defense is giving us, and whatever Aaron is feeling. There are guys on this team that all can make plays.”
Others already have. Randall Cobb has three TD catches, all in the red zone, and rookie Davante Adams caught five passes for 50 yards last week in his first extended action.
Rodgers reiterated Nelson’s thought that there’s no reason for the other receivers to worry about the numbers and opportunities two games in, saying it’s a long season.
By all accounts, they’re in tune with that. They’re also as curious as anyone to see how and when defenses will react to Nelson’s monster start.
“They’re going to start rolling coverage to Jordy, and it’s just going to open things up for everybody else,” Cobb said. “It’s just my job to be ready when that time comes around, to create separation and get open and catch the ball when it comes my way.
“I’m sure it’s going to happen at some point.”
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 17