As the NFL Draft approaches it appears that the Green Bay Packers will bring in no reinforcements at inside linebacker before that date comes.
Unless UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks drops to pick No.30 — which I don’t see happening — the Packers are unlikely to get a reinforcement in the first round of the draft either.
Getting rid of A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones are probably addition by subtraction, but you still need to replace them. Considering this, it seems strange that most people are just assuming Clay Matthews is moving back outside in 2015.
I guess it’s assumed because Matthews wasn’t all that excited about the move, but not only was the defense much better, Matthews was better individually as well. It’s forgotten now that Matthews was struggling during the first half of the season playing exclusively outside. He just did not seem to have quite the same explosiveness coming off the edge as normal. Also, Matthews had trouble at times staying discipline in the run game and containing the edge. He only had 2.5 sacks in the first eight games before the switch.
Matthews had sacks in six of his final eight games to bring his season total to a very respectable 11, which is right around where he wants it. The hybrid position looked like his best position, and that might be how Ted Thompson is looking at it right now. It allowed the Packers to get their best players on the field. They would much rather have had Mike Neal or Nick Perry lining up outside than Jones or Hawk in the middle last year, and that may be the case again with the rookie if he is slow to develop.
Maybe, Thompson trusts Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas to step up and provide depth, but that is a risky proposition. Sam Barrington is also no guarantee, but you would think that he would take a step forward after filling in at inside linebacker admirably.
However, the defense just looked different with Matthews in the middle. They looked faster, more athletic and better reacting. It really showed up in run defense with Matthews just having that sense of which holes to attack. Also, it makes the Packers’ defense that muhc more difficult to prepare for.
So why would it be assumed that the Packers are going to go away from what worked? Having the best front seven possible with a possibly weakened cornerback position seems important. Regardless of whether Matthews is happy about it the best thing for the Green Bay defense is for him to resume his role going inside on running downs and outside on passing downs from last season.