Running back Christine Michael and linebacker Clay Matthews should give the Green Bay Packers a much-needed lift on both sides of the ball.
AP Photo/USA TODAY Sports/WPPROD
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers coach Mike McCarthy has said no one man can change the fortunes of a team.
But in Clay Matthews and Christine Michael, Green Bay has two players who can only help in areas on opposite sides of the ball in which production has tailed off of late.
Matthews on Thursday practiced for a second straight day on a limited basis, a positive step for the Packers' best edge rusher. The long-haired linebacker has been out the past three games with a hamstring injury.
Matthews has been around Lambeau Field for a while, unlike Michael, the newest Packer.
Claimed off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday, Michael took a redeye from Seattle and arrived at Lambeau at about 9:45 a.m.
Less than two hours later, he was at Packers practice.
“The flight was the least of my worries. I was just ready to get up here as soon as possible,” Michael said.
“Grab my playbook, get going, treat my body up well, meet the guys. … Call this place home and just run with it.”
It's unclear yet how much Matthews and Michael will be able to play on Sunday night, when Green Bay (4-5) visits the Washington Redskins.
The Packers aren't used to being under .500 at midseason. Losers of three straight games , two of the biggest areas of concerns for the team are the pass rush and the lack of a running game.
These are areas where Matthews and Michael could help.
The Packers gave up a season-high 446 yards in the 47-25 loss to Tennessee last week, falling behind 21-0 after the first quarter.
The Packers have a respectable 22 sacks on the season, though 14 came in the first four games.
Matthews has missed four games this season to injury, including the past three. The 31-26 loss to Indianapolis on Nov. 6 was emblematic of the Packers' pass rush problems.
While quarterback Andrew Luck is known for his ability to evade pressure, Green Bay managed just two sacks against what was considered a porous offensive line.
“Oh, I mean, as a team, having dropped what, three in a row now? It's difficult to watch,” Matthews said.
For McCarthy, getting more production out of the pass rush starts in the early downs with stopping the run. The Packers earlier this season had success with rushing four, but that has waned in recent weeks.
“At the end of the day as far as how you go about it you want to get those 1-on-1 opportunities, but when you do you've got to win. You've got to win and get the quarterback off the spot,” McCarthy said.
What McCarthy hasn't done is add more pressure on Matthews. The Packers have played it cautiously with an injury that Matthews has had in the past.
“It's not about one player. Never will be. There's so much more to our football team than just our star players,” McCarthy said earlier this week.
“And I probably should say that in good times (too) but I understand when we win games you want to prop a couple guys up and then when it doesn't go well we want to go the other way, too,” McCarthy added. “Clay is an outstanding football player, he's injured. It's part of the game.”
Matthews said on Thursday that he planned to play against Washington, barring the kind of setback he had a couple of weeks ago. It seemed promising then, too, before Matthews ended up sitting out the Colts game.
As for Michael, the odds of the fourth-year back being able to contribute in a meaningful way right away seem low. He barely had time to learn the playbook, let alone unpack his bags.
In the long run, the hope is Michael will be able to join James Starks in a rushing attack that has needed a boost since Eddie Lacy went down with an ankle injury.
Michael ran for 469 yards and six touchdowns on 117 attempts in nine games for Seattle this season, including seven starts.
“I'm just going to get me a playbook as soon as possible and learn as much as possible and see where it goes,” Michael said.