Neal and Perry Need to Produce in the Absence of Matthews

Bob FoxContributor IOctober 8, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 06:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions reacts after a sack by Mike Neal #96 of the Green Bay Packers on third down during the third quarter at Lambeau Field on October 6, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

In the 22-9 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers saw solid production from Clay Matthews, Mike Neal and Nick Perry at outside linebacker.

Matthews and Neal each had a sack, while Perry had two sacks and a forced fumble.

Unfortunately, Matthews broke his thumb on his sack and is now expected to miss about four games, according to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter. Matthews had surgery on the thumb on Monday, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports.

That means that both Neal and Perry will have to produce in the absence of Matthews. Based on their play on Sunday versus the Lions, the prospects of them playing well over the next month look promising.

The Packers had high expectations for both Neal and Perry when they were drafted. Neal was a second-round choice out of Purdue in the 2010 NFL draft, while Perry was a first-round pick out of USC in the 2012 draft.

Both players were defensive ends in college, and they also both had injury issues that curtailed their progress early in their NFL careers.

Neal had a back injury his rookie year in 2010, and then had a knee injury in 2011. Then, prior to the 2012 season, Neal was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances.

But when he came back in to play, Neal showed he could definitely help the pass rush, as he had 4.5 sacks in 11 games.

This year, the Packers decided to give Neal some time at outside linebacker, as well as some time at his usual defensive end position, after No. 96 dropped some weight in the offseason. The results have been fairly promising, as Neal has proven that he can still pressure the passer and has looked okay in coverage, as he has one interception and two passes defended.

Oct 6, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry (53) knocks the football away from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 22-9. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Perry became an outside linebacker immediately as a rookie last season, and he was just starting to get comfortable when injury issues set in.

No. 53 had both wrist and knee woes to start the season, and the wrist injury ended up putting Perry on injured reserve after just six games last year. Perry had two sacks in those six games.

But with Matthews out for about a month, the plan is to play Perry at right outside linebacker in place of Matthews, while Neal will play left outside linebacker.

Head coach Mike McCarthy was very pleased with what he saw from both Neal and Perry on Sunday, as he talked about that via

I think Mike Neal did an exceptional job (Sunday). He even went inside and played well too, so clearly probably one of Mike’s better performances in his career here. And I thought Nick did an excellent job too with his opportunity. (It) was productive.

The Packers will certainly miss Matthews, as he has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. Matthews also leads the Packers in sacks this season with three.

Bottom line, both Neal and Perry need to continue the positive momentum from their impressive performances in the game against the Lions for the next four games.

This is a key time in the 2013 NFL schedule for the 2-2 Packers, as the team will first face Baltimore on the road, then play Cleveland at home, followed by back-to-back divisional games versus Minnesota on the road and Chicago at home.

If the Packers are to be successful in those four games, especially defensively, both Neal and Perry have to continue to step up and play well.