The running theme through all of these previews this week has been that the Jaguars have been pretty bad and lately the Packers have been playing pretty good. It’s not hard to miss that fact given the records of the two teams and a brief combing the highlights for the two franchises this season. Honestly this analysis (which I am guilty of as much as anyone) makes me a bit nervous. No game is easy in the NFL. If you doubt that just ask the 49ers how easy the Vikings were…even though by every sane thought the Niners should of pounded that team into the ground.
So I’m going to change gears and talk about a head to head match up that should prove very fun to watch. Generally, the Jaguars offensive line has not been too good this year. There is an exception to that though in Eugene Monroe, the starting left tackle. If you have four average to below average offensive linemen at least having the one really good guy at left tackle is a positive. Right now the Packers can’t say the same thing with our one really good offensive linemen being a right guard. Coming into this week, Monroe has received positive grades from ProFootball Focus (a site I typically rely on for offensive line analysis). He’s a guy who is able to get the job done and stop some very good pass rushers.
This week Monroe will have his hands full blocking one of the premier pass rushers in the league…Clay Matthews. The Packers defense may be under rated right now. So many of the experts and fans seem to remember last year’s awful unit and think that we are putting the same defense on the field. The secret that Packer fans know is that this just is not the case. There has been an increased pass rush from just about every angle, with Matthews stepping up his game, Erik Walden and Nick Perry being much better than Walden and Frank Zombo, and an actual interior pass rush with Mike Neal, Jerel Worthy, C.J. Wilson and Mike Daniels actually getting a push up the middle.
That said the real lynch pin of the Packers pass rush comes down to Matthews. When Matthews is on his game then the Packers can harass an opposing quarterback all day. The importance of Matthews has grown as the injuries pile up as well. With no B.J. Raji, no Perry, and no Charles Woodson the Packers have lost some very capable pass rushing threats.
Believe it or not, Matthews is coming off a bit of a disappointing game for me. Yes, he had a sack and was very good in run support, but I was hoping for more pressures and hits from Matthews. Especially considering that he was playing against a third string left tackle. This week Matthews will face stiffer competition. If Matthews can beat Monroe and force extra protection to the left side, then more opportunities may open up for one of the supporting cast. This should translate to good things for our defense as a whole. If Matthews is blanked expect the defense to struggle and give up more yards than we may have expected going into this week.