What would a Peppers and Matthews-emptied defense look like?
By Brad Miller
|Now that NFL has put an Aug. 26 ultimatum down on four NFL players, including Green Bay linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, are we all ready to see what a Packers starting 11 would be without them?|
|The Al Jazeera report had signaled out four players for this NFL season who were reportedly linked to using performance enhancing drugs.|
Steelers linebacker James Harrison, former Packer Mike Neal and the aforementioned Matthews and Peppers now are to meet with the NFL investigators to answer questions stemming from these allegations or be reprimanded by getting a suspension.
If this actually comes about and the NFL follows through with their demands, what would happen with the Packer’s defense?Obviously, it would be a crushing blow to a Dom Caper’s defense that looks poised to make some noise this year in the NFL.
By adding some help up the middle through the draft over the last two years the Packers, and Clay Matthews, are excited to move the All Pro linebacker back to his most effective and natural position – outside linebacker.
Rushing the passer from the outside is what Matthews does best and that is what makes the Packers defense the most effective.Losing “The Freak” on the other side of the linebacking lineup is not such a good idea either. Peppers, still, has the respect and fear of offensive linemen across the league, even at the age of 36.
Not only does Peppers play the linebacker position at a high level on the field but his off-the-field mentoring and his locker room presence is highly valued by his team and coaching staff.
To offset these losses, the Packers would have to have some guys step up to fill those big shoes – guys who, so far in their Packers careers, have not been solid contributors; guys who were highly drafted to produce right away; guys like former USC standout Nick Perry, fellow PAC 10 alum Datone Jones, third-year pro Jayrone Elliott, and rookie Kyler Fackrell from Utah State will be pressed into duty and be expected to make plays.
Nick Perry has had many chances to produce for the Packers but has spent more time on the IR than he would have suspected. He has all the tools, he just needs to stay healthy.
A slimmed down Datone Jones, like Perry, has been expected to produce right away but his time has yet to come. Packers linebackers coach Winston Moss was quoted asbsaying that Jones so far this year has shown some growth in being able to consistency play in all three phases and every day his is looking more comfortable in the position.
Elliott got some playing time last year. He contributed three sacks, 21 tackles and an INT while being used sporadically. He will need to build on those numbers to make his presence known.
Fairly quietly, rookie Kyler Fackrell has had a good camp. Coach McCarthy has liked how he has progressed so far. Fackrell got to enjoy his first NFL sack last week against the Browns and seems to be catching the eye of coaches Capers and Moss.
These outside linebackers are taking care of their possible chances, but other players along the defense will have to step up as well.
Will the loss of Peppers and Matthews alter how Capers calls the defense?
We will see to what extent by how well they do. Inside linebackers like Sam Barrington, Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and resurging Carl Bradford might have to expand their roles to accommodate the possible loss of the two all pros.
The Packers have been blessed with a secondary that has high expectations this year. If Matthews and Peppers are gone you can expect a little more nickel and dime packages to offset the coverages for which those linebackers would be responsible.
The Packers have the personnel to minimize the loss of a Peppers and/or Matthews, but make no mistake – the loss would be felt.
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Guys would need to step up at all positions to make up for their absence. No Packer backer wants to see this come about, but maybe, just maybe we could see a few of these guys make names for themselves in the process and cement their futures like Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers already have.
Let’s watch and find out.