Mix of crafty veterans, talented youth power Packers’ potent D : Packers Insider

Mix of crafty veterans, talented youth power Packers’ potent D

December 17, 2009 by  
Filed under News

Dec 17, 2009 ~ US A Today, by Jim Corbett ~

Green Bay Packers ball-hawk cornerback Charles Woodson and pass-rushing rookie outside linebacker Clay Matthews are in the running for a rare defensive double.Woodson and Matthews are among the leading candidates for league defensive MVP and defensive rookie of the year honors. The 2003 Baltimore Ravens boasted defensive MVP Ray Lewis and defensive rookie Terrell Suggs.   Full Story Here

Woodson and Matthews are big-play catalysts for a defensive coordinator Dom Capers 3-4 scheme. 

"It's definitely been my best year," Woodson said. I love this defense."

"It's definitely been my best year," Woodson said. I love this defense."

Both are taking turns erasing tight ends, bringing heat and helping set the standard of attention to detail needed to overcome the Nov. 22 losses of cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Aaron Kampman to season-ending knee injuries. The second-ranked Packers defense has held quarterbacks to a 53.3 completion percentage and intercepted them 23 times.

Beyond his eight interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, four forced fumbles and 57 tackles, Woodson leads pre- and post-practice film study among defensive backs for the NFC’s leading wild-card contender.  

“It’s definitely been my best year,” Woodson said. “I’ve been in position to make a lot of plays. I love this defense.” 

Woodson is driven to get that Super Bowl ring he felt was denied when the then Oakland Raiders corner stripped New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady of the football in the controversial “Tuck rule game.” The Raiders season was cut short by New England’s 16-13, 2001 divisional win when referee Walt Coleman ruled Brady’s throwing arm was moving forward. 

“Charles Woodson is the league’s defensive MVP,” said Greg Cosell, NFL Films analyst and veteran producer of ESPN’s NFL Matchup show. 

“He lines up at corner, as their slot corner in nickel and dime. He plays safety in their base 3-4. He’s a great blitzer, physical with great ball skills.”

Matthews, once a walk-on at the University of Southern California, is competing for defensive rookie against former Trojan teammate and current Houston Texan Brian Cushing (112 tackles, 2½ sacks, two interceptions); Washington Redskins defensive end Brian Orakpo (11 sacks) and Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd (league-best nine interceptions). 

Despite not starting until Week 4, Matthews has eight sacks, four forced fumbles, 19 quarterback hits and six passes defensed. 

“Clay has a skill set I have not previously seen in an outside linebacker in a 3-4. And I played with the Lawrence Taylors, Pat Swillings and Derrick Thomases,” says five-time Pro Bowler and Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. “Clay covers like a big athletic strong safety. 

“He rushes the quarterback with a violence and changes that up with speed and quickness. He has the ability to be one of the best outside linebackers to ever play.” 

Said his father, Clay Matthews Jr., a four-time Pro Bowler during 19 seasons: “You have a guy who scratched and clawed to get where he’s at. 

“Clay’s much faster and stronger than I was. I’m happy I can say that. He must have got that from his mom.”

Of Green Bay’s four touchdown passes surrendered to tight ends only one was longer than 12 yards, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith’s 24-yard scoring strike to Vernon Davis against Matthews in Week 11.

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