Inside job: Matthews getting used to inside linebacker role
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Clay Matthews is getting a refresher course at Green Bay Packers training camp. It has nothing to do with rushing the quarterback.
The long-haired linebacker is ticketed for major snaps again playing on the inside of the Packers defense. Now, Matthews gets to go through a full training camp to help pick up the nuances of a position that he only started playing in the middle of last season.
"That's my duty. I'm playing inside. I need to know what to do. I feel good about it," Matthews said Friday.
Before 2014, Matthews had one primary goal: get to the quarterback. He was pretty successful at it, averaging 10 sacks a season over the first five years of his career.
But the Packers had a pressing need inside last season to slow down the run. Matthews was shuffled inside more at midseason.
The move worked, and by the end of the season, Matthews and Sam Barrington had supplanted A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones as the primary guys inside. The Packers didn't add an inside linebacker in free agency or high in the draft in the offseason, putting Matthews back in a dual-purpose role.
The inside is still relatively new to Matthews, so much so that he said he felt like a rookie again in the spring in starting his first offseason learning the playbook as an inside linebacker.
"Obviously, I'm not as well-versed as I am at the outside linebacker position ... being able to kick back outside at a moment's notice," Matthews said. "So it's really important for me to really grasp this opportunity and really take it and run with it."
Coach Mike McCarthy said he plans to have Matthews practice at his normal outside linebacker position every third day in camp. The majority of snaps, Matthews predicted, would come on the inside.
"Just to get the reps from inside and get the full training because he's never had that from starting in training and going all the way through training camp," McCarthy said.
Those pass-rushing opportunities will still be there for Matthews. He noted that the Packers play in nickel or dime packages about 75 percent of the time -- which typically means opportunities to rush the quarterback in passing situations.
Last year, 8 1/2 of his 11 sacks on the season came after moving inside in Week 10. In a best-case scenario for the Packers, the game of "Where is Clay Matthews?" will confound opposing offenses.
"But I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities. Maybe it will just come from inside," Matthews said.
Barrington, a seventh-round pick out of South Florida in 2013, is in a bit of a tutor's role: He is helping Matthews, who is going into his seventh season, get adjusted to inside linebacker. Training camp will also help build the chemistry and communication between the two middle men.
"A lot of feedback. It must be done. I don't care if it was Roger Rabbit aligned next to me. We've got to talk," Barrington said. "Communication is the key."
Other notes from Day 2 of camp:
SIDELINED: WR Jared Abbrederis sat out with a concussion. The second-year receiver got hurt on the opening day of practice on Thursday after falling hard to the ground during an interception. McCarthy said Abbrederis was going through the concussion protocol.
HIGHLIGHTS: The defensive backs had an active day, including two interceptions by S Morgan Burnett. Rookie CB Damarious Randall, the team's first-round draft pick, had a nice breakup late over the middle on a pass from undrafted rookie quarterback Matt Blanchard.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Packers practice in pads for the first time on Saturday. "It's always fun to get back into real football and we get to see what everybody is made of," said defensive lineman Mike Daniels.