In only two-and-one-half games he has 13 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. So what are the Packers going to do if he is down when the Lions come to town?
For one, the Packers and Matthews have been here before. This is definitely not the first time Matthews has had and played with an injured hamstring. It probably will not be the last time either. But unfortunately, even a 70-80 percent Matthews is better than the other options the Packers have.
As for options, for one you have Andy Mulumba. A rookie out of Eastern Michigan, Mulumba looked decent in the preseason as he had seven tackles and a sack. However, you never want to put a rookie in the spot to have to produce like Matthews, and Dom Capers just will not put him in that position unless absolutely necessary.
You also have Nate Palmer, who is also in the same position as Mulumba. Another rookie out of Illinois State, Palmer is making the transition from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker. Palmer had a good preseason, racking up two sacks, a safety, and nine tackles. He did not look extremely comfortable in the first two preseason games, but really came on in the final two, racking up both sacks, the safety, and seven of his nine tackles in the extended action. If it came down to him versus Mulumba, the arrow would at least seem to point to Palmer.
The player most likely to replace Matthews in the event he does not play, would be Mike Neal. Neal was a defensive end/tackle who this year was converted to a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end. He has been a disappointment thus far, drafted in the second round in 2010 to replace Cullen Jenkins, but injuries have held him back. A switch to linebacker seems to have energized him with a lower weight, where he has four tackles, an interception, and seems to be quicker and faster.
All told, we can easily see that none of these options could replicate what Matthews brings. He is too dynamic to just plug in a replacement. We just have to hope that either Clay is good to go at game time, or one of these guys puts on a show versus Detroit.