Perhaps the most concerning thing about the upcoming match up with the Detriot Lions is the fact that the Green Bay Packers will be without superstar outside linebacker Clay Matthews. This will undoubtedly cause a drop in the ability to rush Matthew Stafford, and may indicate some future struggles on the part of the Packers defense. So what can we Packer fans really expect?
Right now the Packers have four outside linebackers ready to play for Sunday: Frank Zombo, Erik Walden, Dezman Moses, and Vic So’oto. Let’s start with some brutal honesty when talking about these four guys; none of them are going to be able to replicate what Matthews does on Sundays. Furthermore, it would be a stretch to say that any combination of the four will be a dynamic pairing a defense needs in their outside pass rushing game. Zombo and Walden have the most experience. Both have been decent options on the other side of Matthews, but both have struggled to bring consistent pressure when the offense is already diverted towards Matthews. Moses looks to have raw ability, but still has a lot to prove. So’oto…well he’s just a body at this point. If you doubt that look at his stats from his time in Oakland this year….four games active , no starts, one tackle. There is not a lot to be inspired by here among these four.
The good news is that this is not where the story ends. Zombo has looked pretty good in his time in Green Bay, but has struggled with health issues. Currently he appears to be healthy and ready to go. Similarly, Walden is having an improved year this year. He still does not get home as much as many would like, but he is strong in coverage and in run support and is able to get some pressure on the QB. What Walden has Moses makes up for. During his rookie campaign this year Moses has showed an ability to play aggressive and bring pressure on the quarterback. He has only logged one sack so far on the year, but does have many hurries and has been a disruptive force in passing situations. So’oto is still a solid rotational guy and not a liability when his number is called on. The bottom line is that fans probably won’t see too many "Psycho" packages, or LB heavy packages to confuse a defense without Clay Matthews, but there should be enough talent to fake things or a game or two.
Telling the other half of the story are the tackles for the Detroit Lions, Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus. Neither are intimidating prospects at the tackle position, although generally they could be described as "good enough." Backus is the veteran of the two with twelve years in the league, meanwhile Cherilus has five years in the league. Both have been a part of the highs and the lows of this organization and both have been a part of some shaky line play. It will be interesting to see how two generally underwhelming tackles can match up against an underwhelming group of outside linebackers.