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Film Breakdown: What Clay Matthews brings to the Rams defense

Linebacker Clay Matthews has been one of the league's most effective defenders since Green Bay selected him No. 26 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. In 10 seasons with the Packers, Matthews recorded 83.5 sacks, 121 tackles for loss, 189 quarterback hits, 15 forced fumbles, and six interceptions.

Yes, he'll turn 33 in mid-May. But the USC and Agoura High School product appears to still have a good amount left in the tank that can aid the Rams in their pursuit of a third consecutive NFC West title.


Using some screenshots from NFL GamePass, here are a few examples of how Matthews made an impact last year with the Packers that should translate to the Rams' 3-4 defensive scheme.


While Matthews did line up some at inside linebacker — including in Green Bay's loss to the Rams at the Coliseum last year — we'll focus here on plays he made on the edge.

This first one comes from the Packers' Week 14 victory over the Falcons, during which Matthews recorded one of his 3.5 sacks in 2018. That figure was a career low for Matthews, but some of his quarterback takedowns came off the board due to penalty.

Either way, on this 3rd-and-2 play, Matthews lines up on the outside of Atlanta's right tackle, Ty Sambrailo — No. 74.


But this play really works because of the combination between Matthews and defensive tackle Kenny Clark (No. 97). When the ball gets snapped, both Matthews and Clark take a few steps to the outside, putting the right tackle and right guard in one-on-one blocking situations. Running back Tevin Coleman (No. 26) is also back there, but he ends up going on out on a flare route to the right.


But instead of engaging with the right tackle, Matthews scrapes back over to the middle of the field — which has been left open because Falcons center Alex Mack (No. 51) has slid to his left to help out the left guard in pass protection.


With the right guard turning his back to block Clark, Matthews has a clear path to Ryan and he does not miss — bringing the quarterback down for a sack.



This second play comes from the same game, but at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Falcons have 3rd-and-1 at the Packers' 32-yard line, and Matthews ends up making a critical stop to bring up fourth down.

This time, Matthews is lined up outside of the left tackle — his cousin, Jake Matthews.


When the ball gets snapped, the linebacker Matthews stonewalls the left tackle right at the line of scrimmage, keeping his outside leverage to help keep running back Ito Smith from bouncing too far out that way.


But when the rest of the Packers defense plus the hole that looked like was forming between the left tackle and left guard, Smith does try to bounce it outside.

That's when Clay Matthews disengages by extending his arms, and then brings Smith to the ground for a TFL.



Matthews may be approaching his mid-30s, but in Week 12 against the Vikings, he still showed that he has the speed and explosiveness to ruin a play before it gets going.

On this 1st-and-10 play from the Packers' 16-yard line, Matthews is lined up outside of the right tackle pre-snap.


But once the ball gets snapped, the tight tackle immediately blocks down on Clark — filling in for the guard who's pulling around on the power run play. But that leaves Matthews completely unblocked.


Within a couple of steps, it becomes pretty clear that the scheme there just didn't work, as you can see No. 69 — Rashod Hill — start to turn around just to get a hand on Matthews to slow him down. And Matthews is about to blow the play up before quarterback Kirk Cousins is even able to hand off the ball to running back Dalvin Cook.


Matthews is too fast for Hill, though, and wraps up Cooks to bring him down for a three-yard loss.



If Matthews can continue to bring this kind of play on a down-to-down basis, coordinator Wade Phillips should have a strong weapon to utilize in both rushing the passer and stopping the run for the 2019 season.

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