Clay Matthews for NFL Defensive Player of the Year? You Better Believe It.
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Green Bay Packers star linebacker Clay Matthews has had three sacks in each of his two opening games. If he continued at that lick, Matthews would finish the season with 48 (!) sacks. Now no one is suggesting that 48 is realistic, but Holy Smokes has Matthews played out of his skin in his first two games.
The guy is a beast. 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, and with a motor that seemingly just does not stop running. So far in games against Philadelphia and Buffalo, Matthews has looked damn near unblockable. He displays a formidable combination of speed and power rushing off the edge. Michael Strahan must be concerned about his record of 22.5 sacks in a season, as Matthews has a serious chance at topping that.
Let us not forget that this is only Matthews second season; any worries about a sophomore slump seem blown clear out of the water. The fact that he has in all likelihood not yet reached his peak in potential has got to be a little scary for opposing quarterbacks in the NFC. As Aaron Rodgers put it after the game against Philadelphia, ‘I’m just glad he’s on my team.’ Well, that's because Aaron knows that if he had to face off in opposition to Clay, he’s likely to take a number of solid hits in the kisser (just ask Kevin Kolb).
There are two significant individual contributions that must be given credit in Matthews development at Green Bay.
1. Ted Thompson – this was the first time that Thompson has ever traded up in the first round of the draft, as giving away draft picks is usually anathema to the Green Bay team development mantra, but right now, the decision to take Matthews is looking truly inspired.
2. Dom Capers – I don’t think many people expected Capers to be quite so successful in such a limited space of time. Granted the secondary still has yet to be given a stiff examination this year, but for me, the way that Capers utilises Matthews in blitz packages and allows him complete freedom to do what he does best is a stroke of genius.
Right now in the NFC, Matthew’s pass-rushing peers are slumping in comparison. DeMarcus Ware has one sack. Jared Allen the same. Neither has shown the same kind of dynamism in getting to the quarterback that Matthews has been able to produce. In no way am I trying to write off these seasoned Pro-Bowlers, but right now they have some catching up to do.
If Matthews breaks Strahan’s sack record this year, which he has a legitimate shot at doing, there is no way he is not made Defensive Player of the Year (after all Strahan won it for his 22.5). I can’t see anything other than an All-Pro career for this kid, and even though we are only two games into the season, Matthews has made a pretty compelling case for right now being Green Bay’s best player on the defensive side of the ball. And that’s after Charles Woodson won Defensive Player of the Year the year previous! Cutler better hope that his offensive line bring their A-game on Monday night, otherwise he and Green Bay’s dynamic #52 may be getting very familiar.
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