After losing Charles Woodson for six weeks, Clay Matthews and the rest of the Green Bay Packers front seven must ratchet up the pressure even more than they already have in order to maintain this defense's status as one of the most dangerous in the NFL.
Woodson suffered a broken collarbone in the team's Week 7 contest against the St. Louis Rams (h/t Fox Sports' Jay Glazer), adding to an injury list that already includes B.J. Raji, Nick Perry and D.J. Smith.
With Woodson in the lineup at safety, the Packers ranked No. 17 against the pass through Week 7, allowing 232 yards per game.
It's important to note that this stat is as low as it is because this defense allowed only 156 yards per game through the first three weeks to the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks—the No. 29, No. 25 and No. 31-ranked passing offenses in the NFL, respectively.
Additionally, during those three games, this defense allowed only five touchdowns while intercepting four passes and sacking the quarterback 12 times.
Since that time, the Packers defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to average 324 yards per game, but it has still been able to generate pressure (12 sacks) and force turnovers (five interceptions).
Now that Woodson is out for an extended period of time, M.D. Jennings will likely take over for him at the strong safety position, though it's not out of the question that he'll split time with rookie Jerron McMillian. This will inevitably put more pressure on third-year man Morgan Burnett at the free safety position.
The youth and inexperience on the back end of the Packers defense mean that Matthews and the men up front will need to put even more pressure on opposing quarterbacks if this defense hopes to stay as dangerous as it has been thus far in 2012.
If the front seven doesn't get consistent pressure, this secondary is liable to continue getting shredded for yards, but the interceptions won't be as forthcoming.
Getting Raji and Perry back in the lineup will certainly help matters, but until they are ready to go, Matthews is going to have to put forth a super-human effort. At this point in the season, he's the only man on the roster with more than two sacks.
If this team has any chance of remaining dangerous on defense, Matthews must improve upon what's already been his most impressive season as a pro, and any extra help along the front line couldn't hurt, either.
The Packers lead the NFL with 24 sacks, and now that Woodson's out for an extended period of time, this defense needs to pressure opposing quarterbacks more than ever before.
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