Clay Matthews: Packers’ OLB depth ‘not that great’

cowboys_075The Green Bay Packers changed defensive coordinators and overhauled the secondary this offseason. New general manager Brian Gutekunst, however, mostly ignored upgrading the linebacker spot.

The Packers waited until the 248th pick in the draft to select a linebacker, Kendall Donnerson, and didn’t add a pass rusher in free agency. Green Bay had a chance to snatch a top edge rusher in the draft, but instead decided to trade down and pick up a future first-round selection.

With one of the best 3-4 defensive line trios in Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Muhammad Wilkerson, Green Bay is counting on interior penetration to make up where the outside group lacks.

With Aaron Rodgers ‘ return from injury, on paper, the Packers ‘ roster has few holes outside the glaring one at edge rusher. Green Bay is hoping the lack of depth behind the injury-prone Perry and Matthews doesn’t come back to haunt them in 2018.

It frees him up to play more first- or second-down nickel and be available in that way and be fresher during the course of the game, defensive line coach Bryant Young said last week, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Not that he couldn’t handle it because I thought he did a good job of handling the [strongside] and playing defensive end. Just having him available to play more reps at defensive end will be good for us.

Playing more linebacker in 2017, Beasley’s sack numbers dipped from a league-high 15.5 in 2016 to five last year.

I wasn’t rushing as much as I normally would, Beasley said. There were less opportunities, but it was for the betterment of the team and what the team needed most at that moment. I was fine with that.

The Falcons ‘ best pass rusher playing any significant amount in coverage seemed like a faulty plan last season. The move back to defensive end full time should allow the Falcons to keep their best quarterback menace on the field more.

According to NextGen Stats, Beasley played more than seven fewer snaps per game in 2017 than his sack-filled 2016 campaign. Most of those snaps came in obvious run situations; Beasley played on fewer than 10 run plays in the Falcons ‘ final six games of the season, including two postseason tilts.

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