Packers 2017 Recap: OLB Clay Matthews

Clay Matthews has always done exactly what the Packers have asked, whether he wants to or not and whether his body will let him or not.

In 2017, he finally saw some more results, but the rest of the defense provided little, if any, help.

2017 Stats

  • Appeared in 14 games with 14 starts (656 snaps on defense, 34 on special teams)
  • Recorded 28 solo tackles, 7.5 sacks, two passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery

Expectations going into the season: High
Expectations were: Met

What we said last season

Clay Matthews makes plays for the Packers on defense. The outgoing, quarterback-sacking pass rusher just didn’t look like his old self.

Matthews admitted in October playing outside linebacker was more taxing on his body, and it showed in two season-changing injuries for the Packers.

Analysis: Clay Matthews improves, but isn’t enough for the Packers

Let’s get something out of the way right away: yes, Clay Matthews makes a lot of money.

There, we acknowledged it.

Can we also admit that his salary isn’t the only important thing about him as a player?

Matthews himself has rarely ever been the problem for the Packers. In 2016 he was beat up, sure. But he still played. In 2014 and 2015 he was asked to play a different position, a position he didn’t want to play. But he still showed up. In 2017, at a point in his career when he’s supposed to be getting more help, not less, Matthews once again still played, producing his highest sack total since 2014.

Yes, Matthews made a lot of money in 2017. He made a lot of money because he was expected to be the Packers’ best pass rusher, and guess what? He easily was.

Outside of the self-congratulatory bashing of his salary, here are some other things worth considering about Matthews’s 2017 performance: he did it playing without Nick Perry for four games due to injury, Mike Daniels for two games due to injury (and then several more as he recovered), Ahmad Brooks for four games due to injury, and Julius Peppers for all 16 games due to the inexplicable decision to let him sign with the Panthers for clearance rack prices.

On top of that, the secondary was as bad or worse in 2017 as it was in 2016, a historically awful year for pass defense. Surely if Matthews could have gotten even half a second more of help from his teammates in the secondary, we’d be less concerned about the amount of money he’s making.

Since about 2011, Matthews has needed more help in the pass rush. That was still true in 2017. He’s been asked to do everything himself, and more or less he’s been successful.

Athletes diminish over time, and to continue to achieve success they need help as they age. The Packers have never given that to Clay Matthews. But he still plays on.