On Clay Matthews, the Position Switch, and His Versatility

Thor, God of Thunder, sacks his evil brother, Loki. Wait a second... (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

I made a big deal about Nick Perry playing the left outside linebacker position in rookie minicamp, and we discussed it briefly yesterday when Perry stayed there at the beginning of OTAs with Clay Matthews moving to the right side. That move certainly indicates that Matthews will be freed up to use more of his playmaking abilities from the right side, instead of strictly rushing the passer on the left side like he did in 2011. But it's entirely possible that we're making too big a deal of these positional labels.

Here's Matthews, as quoted by Jason Wilde:

The misnomer about the position is that we’re stuck to one side. On paper, it’s going to say "left outside linebacker" or "right outside linebacker." Really, those positions are interchangeable, so the faster we can get (Perry) up to speed, the faster we can have some fun moving him around, flying around and making some plays together.

In light of Matthews' comments, it appears that we may be reading too much into the position switch and ignoring the fact that Perry is a talented player. I am guilty of making the assumption that the right and left outside linebackers play significantly different roles in the defense and that switching a player from one side to the other will require him to use different skills in that new role. Matthews' comments indicate that I have been thinking there are more differences between positions than what actually exist.

One thing is certain: the Packers (and Matthews) expect Perry and company to help ease the pass-rushing burden on Matthews, whose versatility can now be maximized by playing various positions:

Whenever we can take advantage of that by playing on the right side, left side, in the middle — wherever you want me to play — I think we’re all about that.

It sure sounds to me like he's excited to work hard in taking on a new challenge and use the opportunity to make an impact all over the field. And let's face it - that desire to change games in any way is exactly what you should want from one of your biggest stars. Could this be the start of Dom Capers molding Matthews into a jack-of-all-trades? Perhaps he will grow into the front seven's version of Charles Woodson over time. I, for one, look forward to seeing what Clay can do when the Packers' opponents can't assume he's lining up in the same place on every play.

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