After a move to inside linebacker, Clay Matthews played his best game of the season Sunday against the Bears.
Mike Roemer/Mike Roemer/Associated Press
It’s time for this week’s edition of Packers Mailbag …
Will Clay Matthews stay at Inside LB after the recent success? Sure seemed like a perfect fit for him, he was more active and had a great game. — Lars, Eau Claire
Will they keep Matthews on the inside and look for help at outside LB in next years draft? Is this a better fit for Matthews or is he just talented enough to play both positions? What does the future hold for the inside LB position after Matthews’ performance Sunday? I liked how they moved him around inside and out. — Brody, Cottage Grove
What brought about the move of Matthews to the inside? (Other than poor run defense) Who gets the credit for the move? Why didn’t they make this move sooner? Is his future at inside LB? Does it work because Perry is stronger against the run on the outside? — Randy, Eleva
Should Ted Thompson take note of the improved play of the defense and credit it to the monster game of Clay Matthews against Chicago, or come to realize to play an effective three-four defense we need more speed and athleticism at inside linebacker? It seems to me Ha-Ha has filled a hole at safety and made a big impact in our secondary. I feel better personnel at linebacker would make an even greater impact. — Buck, New London
Are the Bears that bad? or did McCarthy and Capers really come up with a great game plan? What a great move to put Clay Matthews on the inside. Will this be Matthews’ future at inside? or is this temporary? — Lew, Elk Mound
A: I’ll try to answer these individual questions about Clay Matthews one at a time.
Yes, it seems that Matthews will stay at inside linebacker for now. After success to that level and Matthews playing his best game of the season, not going back to it one week later would be foolish.
This is almost certainly not a permanent (as in, beyond this season) switch for Matthews. Inside linebacker would have to be at the top of the Packers’ needs list going into next offseason. Not that Green Bay should reach in the draft, but if there’s a player with a first-round grade available when it’s the Packers’ turn to draft, they’d have to go that route. That would allow Matthews to move back to his natural outside linebacker spot, while also knowing that the defense can now move him to inside linebacker on occasion to throw off opposing offenses.
The move was brought on mainly because of the poor run defense, but also because Green Bay has better depth at outside linebacker than it does at inside linebacker. Dom Capers would rather play Nick Perry on the outside than Sam Barrington inside. Because of that, it necessitates the position change for Matthews. The credit goes to Capers and Mike McCarthy for deciding to try something a bit outside the box. Moving your most talented defensive player to a new position midseason is a huge risk, and it obviously paid off big after one game.
It would be safe to assume that Ted Thompson is well aware his team needs a permanent upgrade at inside linebacker. The Matthews move helps them for now, but they didn’t give him a five-year, $66 million contract extension in April 2013 so that he could play inside linebacker as anything more than a temporary solution. Speed and athleticism at inside linebacker are great, but Jamari Lattimore is fast and athletic and he was a healthy gameday scratch. That speed and athleticism have to be on the right player.
Is Aaron Rodgers at or near the top of the list for MVP? — Lee, Chippewa Falls
A: Yes. According to Bovada, Rodgers now has the second-best odds to be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player this season. Before the Packers’ dominating win over the Bears, Rodgers had the sixth-best odds for MVP. That shows just how big of an impact a six-touchdown first half has. Rodgers’ top competition is Peyton Manning, who has just slightly better odds right now to win the award. Andrew Luck is right there with Rodgers, and Tom Brady isn’t far behind. DeMarco Murray is in the race, too. J.J. Watt is a longshot, but he’s in the top-six discussion.
Is Eddie Lacy a better receiver than runner right now? Is it the offensive line or him, why can’t they get the running game going? What are the main issues? Can it be fixed or is this who they are at this point of the season? Will this haunt them down the stretch and in the playoffs? Or is the screen pass as good as a run with Lacy? — Mike, Cloquet
A: Based on a sample size of the last two games, yes, Lacy has been a better receiver than runner. Between the New Orleans game and the Chicago game, Lacy has 191 receiving yards compared to 109 rushing yards. Of course it helps that he’s had huge gains on screen passes in each of those two games. For the entire season, according to the ProFootballFocus rating system, Lacy has actually graded out better in the passing game than the running game.
The interior of the offensive line (Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, T.J. Lang) has been blocking very well in the running game, but there are issues elsewhere. Lacy also hasn’t been the same running out of the backfield this season compared to his rookie year. However, a screen pass is as good as a run with Lacy. In fact, it might be the better of the two options.
Will the Packers catch the Lions? The last game of the season could mean a lot of things for both teams, do you think it gets flexed to Sunday night? — Kathy, Altoona
A: When the Packers came back from their bye, it was easy to look at the Lions’ upcoming schedule and realize we were all about to find out just how good this Detroit team is. The Lions passed their first test with a win over Miami, but they now have the Arizona Cardinals and then the New England Patriots. Detroit then has a fairly easy run until it has a rematch with Green Bay at Lambeau Field in Week 17. So, do I think the Packers will catch Detroit? I think so, yes, as I believe Green Bay could go 7-1 in the second half of its season. But if the Lions win against Arizona and New England, they would likely be considered the best team in the NFL and would make it difficult for the Packers to catch them.
Paul – Why does Mike McCarthy continue to risk Randall Cobb, one of his starting wide receivers, on punt returns when he has a solid, sure handed option in Micah Hyde? — Jeff, Waupaca
A: It’s a good question and one that I’ve wondered myself. Hyde has been just as good — if not better — than Cobb on punt return. And Hyde is not as valuable to the defense as Cobb is to the offense. Logically, that would mean the Packers would be better off going with Hyde. Yet, it’s Cobb who has 10 punt returns this season compared to Hyde only having five.
thanks for taking the time.I live in nyc area and all talk shows talk about the gm of the jets vs head coach. did the gm pick the wrong players and bad players for the jets or the coaches cant coach? so that is my packer question. did tt pick the wrong and lousy players for defense or capers cant coach? pick one side pleas.e thanks- – Lou, Verona, NJ
A: The answer of course lies somewhere in the middle. One thing is not exclusively true. Thompson was smart in addressing the safety position in the first round of the 2014 draft by selecting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who’s had a terrific rookie season and has solved the Packers’ issues there. But then Thompson didn’t address the inside linebacker position, which has led to Green Bay having to go the extreme route and have Matthews switch spots on the field. So that’s the good and the bad there. Solving one key position but not another leaves a weakness on defense that Thompson couldn’t possibly expect Capers to just magically figure out when there’s not the right collection of talent. The team also decided to get smaller and more athletic on the defensive line, and that hasn’t worked well at all. That was likely a group decision by all main parties involved. Sorry that I can’t pick one side, Lou.
** That’s all for this week. Look for the Mailbag link again after the Packers-Eagles game and send in your questions for next week. **