I don’t know if he has another nickname, but I think “The Freak” is a pretty fair assessment.
In his first matchup against the Eagles, Clay Matthews recorded seven tackles with three sacks, two tackles for loss, a pass deflection, and had three other quarterback hits. He successfully ended Kevin Kolb’s day, giving the Eagles quarterback a concussion.
Michael Vick entered the game and was able to do better than Kolb using his elusiveness, but Matthews was still able to get to Vick.
Against the Vikings, Vick struggled when he constantly saw a lot of pressure. He was hampered by a quad injury, but still failed to make good reads on blitzes.
Come Sunday, the Packers will look to blitz Matthews early and often. He is their number one pass rusher and has recorded 13.5 sacks in the regular season. He has a strong ability to shed blockers and has decisive speed for a linebacker.
A large part of the Eagles offensive success will be based on whether or not they can contain Matthews. They’ll have to do a much better job then they did in the first meeting.
Clay Harbor and Brent Celek are two guys the Eagles will rely on heavily to help slow down Matthews. The Eagles won’t allow him to see a lot of single blocking on Sunday. Instead, they’ll use a lot of tight end formations to double-team Matthews and slow him down from getting in the backfield.
The offense has had success in double-teaming guys like Dwight Freeney this year by constantly having tight ends help in blocking. Celek noted that they showed so much attention to Freeney during their matchup with the Colts that the defensive end became very frustrated and began to give up by the end of the game.
Matthews isn’t a guy I expect to give up, as he is a very high-motor player. However, the Eagles will need to show him the kind of attention they showed Freeney.
Using a tight end to stay in and help block Matthews will eliminate a passing threat in the offense, but it will be entirely necessary to do.
The Eagles have a great trio of wide receivers who can carry the load and make plays. I’d rather see the offense contain Matthews and give Vick a pocket to throw from rather then letting Matthews run wild.
I also expect the Eagles to use LeSean McCoy as a big offensive weapon during the game. The Packers have shown that they are susceptible to the run. Although the Eagles tend to shy away from the run game, this is one matchup that they can’t afford to do that.
I expect the Eagles to give McCoy a healthy number of carries and also get Jerome Harrison some involvement in the run game. When he’s been given the chance, Harrison has showed that he can be a successful runner and the Eagles will need to use his abilities against the Packers.
The Eagles will also need to use McCoy in the screen game. With an aggressive pass rusher like Matthews, you can let him over-pursue the quarterback and have McCoy slip out of the backfield. Matthews doesn’t give up on plays and has the ability to chase down running backs, but McCoy should be able to use his speed to get up field.
Vick and company are going to need to pay close attention to where Matthews lines up on every play and do everything that they can to contain the standout linebacker. If they can’t contain Matthews, they’re in for a long day.
Vick wouldn’t be where he is now if it wasn’t for Matthews. However, I don’t think Vick will be extending any thank you’s this weekend.