When Los Angeles signed safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Clay Matthews in March, the idea was to improve the club’s defense not only this year but not the future through the wisdom from experience both veterans could impart on the club’s younger players.
No, the Rams haven’t played a game yet and won’t take the field for a result that counts for another couple of months. But even from the offseason program, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has gotten a positive impression of what both Weddle and Matthews bring to the table — both on the field and in the meeting room.
“Matthews and Weddle both give us a veteran influence coming in, and are both still really athletic and can play their position well, but it gives you a lot of experience,” Phillips said during Los Angeles’ minicamp. “Weddle especially, I think in the secondary gives you a lot of things that you can do as far as changes and working against our offense, which gives you a lot of problems.”
Phillips praised Weddle for the safety’s high-level knowledge of what L.A. wants to get done defensively when it comes to concepts, citing one instance in particular. The 71-year-old defensive coordinator pointed out a play where the offense sent a receiver in motion. In Los Angeles’ scheme, the cornerback should’ve followed across the formation — but this time, it didn’t happen.
“So Weddle went over and took his place and then hollered at him to go and take his place,” Phillips said. “It’s those kinds of things that you don’t normally see, most players they just play their position, but he understood the concept and said, ‘Hey, he didn’t have to go, so I’ll go, but he needs to go back where I was.’ That’s what he adds, certainly.”
That’s the kind of veteran experience that can make a difference for key on-field situations.
And as for Matthews?
“Clay Matthews has looked really good. His athletic skills are superb and he moves so well. And I told him he’s really only halfway through his career — his dad played 19 years, so he’s got nine more left,” Phillips said with a laugh. “But he’s looked really good, too.”
Between the knowledge and experience of Weddle and Matthews, Los Angeles’ defense has a strong chance to improve on a play-to-play basis.