It’s really been a phenomenal season for both the NFC Champion Green Bay Packers defensive unit and their star Left Outside Linebacker Clay Matthews. The second year pro out of USC is really flourishing within Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 system, and the race for NFC Defensive Player of the Year figures to come down to him and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. If you’re one to bet on sports, you might want to put money on Matthews getting sacks in the Super Bowl.
“I was fortunate enough that my first year was his (Capers) first year. I think we finished one or two in defense last year. And I think right now we’re leading the NFL in points per game allowed,” Matthews said at Cowboys Stadium during the Nike Football Media Summit.
Matthews will be return to Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl 45, the annual sports betting event.
“Especially with all the injures we’ve had, he responds, he puts us in the right position. It’s not just a defense for one or two guys, it’s meant for everybody,” Matthews continued.
The 6-3, 255 one man wrecking crew was in Dallas as the world’s leading sportswear corporation unveiled its next generation of Nike Pro Combat uniforms and the new Air Zoom Alpha Talon cleat. Matthews was part of the mega-event, one of five NFL players modeling the equipment.
“Everything they’ve presented to us as far as the fly wire and the talons on the bottom is really beneficial in what we’ve preaching for a long time,” Matthews said.
“Especially a guy like me with my size and speed, I need something that can give me better support, a bigger shoe that can move like a lightweight shoe, like what a DB would wear. I’m looking forward to wearing ‘em in games and seeing what they can do for me.”
Matthews has a solid all around game, but he’s known primarily as a pass-rusher. Part of that is because he just happens to excel so much in the one particular aspect of the game considered “sexy” on the defensive side of the ball. (And when ESPN’s Erin Andrews dresses up in your uniform on air for Halloween, people are destined to associate the word “sexy” with your game). But maybe as time goes by we’ll see Matthews get more acclaim for his drop back coverage and run-stuffing skills.
“I like to think I’m known not as a one trick pony, but absolutely, the great thing about these is it’s not just going to do one thing: not just going to make you faster or built for more traction. It’s built for every part of your game,” Matthews said.
“Especially for me, I’m rushing the passer, I might be coming underneath and playing around the guards and center. I might be dropping back into coverage, man to man on backs and tight ends. It covers everything as far as traction for making proper cuts that I need to do at my height and weight with these little guys coming out of the backfield.”
Matthews is leading the NFC in sacks, but is 1.5 behind Miami’s Cameron Wake for the NFL lead. And was asked if keeps tabs on such things.
“Absolutely, obviously the most important stat is winning games, but for your personal goals you like to accumulate as many stats as possible. It keeps you motivated and what not. I got to get more sacks if I want to get that lead back!” he responded.
Green Bay’s defensive ranking in Capers/Matthews’ first year improved up to second in the league from twenty-first in 2008. The defensive yards allowed ranking for the Packers were among the best all season.
“As far as stopping the run, he gets to turn the dogs loose, it’s not just the outside linebackers, it’s your corners, your safeties, your middle linebackers, the d linemen
and that’s what makes it so special,” Matthews said.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com