Clay Matthews Must Bring Back the Sack for Packers Defense to Dominate

Chris PetersonAnalyst IJune 5, 2012

Matthews must destroy opposing QB's for Packers defense to succeed.
Matthews must destroy opposing QB's for Packers defense to succeed.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones used the term sack to describe tackling opposing quarterbacks in the backfield because to sack literally means to pillage, plunder and destroy.

For the Packers, Clay Matthews is the man that so often sacked opposing quarterbacks, pillaging and plundering them into submission. Yet, in 2011, Matthews and the Packers saw a dramatic decline in sacks, which was a key factor in the shocking fall of a once dominant defense. 

After posting 10 sacks in 2009 and 13.5 in 2010, Matthews total fell to a meager 6.5 sacks last season; and with Matthews struggling to get sacks, the defense lost its edge, finishing with just 29 sacks down from the 47 it totaled during the Super Bowl season of 2010.

Stats do not always tell the whole story in pro football and if judging Matthews play in 2011 solely by his sack numbers, you may get the wrong impression about how well he rushed the passer. 

Matthews sack total had less to do with his ability to rush the passer and more to do with the lack of competent pass-rushers surrounding him because while his sacks did decline, he notched 53.5 pressures, just shy of the 55 he notched in 2010.

So, if Matthews excelled at pressuring the quarterback, why was he unable to turn more of those opportunities into actual sacks?

The big culprit was the lack of on the interior of the defense. 

Matthews is tremendous on the edge and has an innate ability to dip his shoulder to routinely beat offense tackles around the corner. However, with little pressure up the middle, quarterbacks simply stepped up in the pocket to eliminate the threat from outside. 

Jerel Worthy will look to provide pressure inside to free up Matthews on the edge.
Jerel Worthy will look to provide pressure inside to free up Matthews on the edge.Leon Halip/Getty Images

All too often last season, Matthews would be seen beating a tackle around the edge, only to have to quarterback step up in the pocket to effortlessly avoid the sack. 

To address the problem, the Packers took to the 2012 NFL Draft, where they added some much-needed reinforcements along the interior of the defensive line and at outside linebacker. 

First-rounder Nick Perry, an outside linebacker from USC led the Pac-12 with 10 sacks last season and finished his career with 22 total, will complement the pass rush from the outside opposite Matthews.

Meanwhile, second-round defensive lineman Jerel Worthy of Michigan State and fourth-rounder Mike Daniels of Iowa, will to look to aid Pro Bowler B.J. Raji in providing the pressure inside that was missing so often last season.

Worthy, who has 12 career sacks, and Daniels, who has 16 career sacks including nine last season, should be able to contribute right away, as should Perry.

With the addition of three pass-rushers capable of contributing right away, the Packers should have the complements inside and on the edge to pressure the quarterback from other areas of the defense, relieving some of the intense focus offenses place on Matthews. 

As a whole, the pass rush should be much improved in 2012, meaning Matthews should see his sack production rise back to pre-2011 levels, which will be an important indicator that the defense is getting back on track. 

Pressures on the quarterback are nice, but cause much less destruction than sacking the quarterback and for the Packers defense to improve, Matthews must get back to his pillaging, plundering ways.