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Claymaker Redux: Examining the Packers' Use of Clay Matthews at Inside Linebacker

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Is moving Clay Matthews to the inside linebacker position the answer the Green Bay Packers have been seeking at the position?

Jonathan Daniel

Much like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, the Green Bay Packers unveiled something Sunday night that was often rumored but not yet confirmed on tape.

That would be Clay Matthews: Inside Linebacker.

With the inside position being one of the weakest links on the Green Bay defense, it's no surprise the Packers decided to move Matthews from his natural outside and pass rushing position to the inside to plug a hole that has been there all season.

The result? Matthews' best game of the season.

He racked up a sack of Jay Cutler but that was when he was lined up outside.  More impressively, he tallied a career high 11 tackles (nine solo, two assisted) and Matt Forte was held under 60 yards after going for over 120 in the teams' first matchup in Week 4.

Obviously Matthews wants to pass rush and is being paid to sack opposing quarterbacks.  However, he was not having his best season in 2014 before the Bears game.  His sack of Cutler was only his third unassisted sack so far and he's been nearly invisible in most games.

Could this move to inside linebacker be a sign of a Claymaker Reborn?

If his brother Casey, an inside linebacker for this week's Packer opponent (the Philadelphia Eagles), is to be believed, Clay is not too thrilled about the move to inside linebacker, even if it is an occasional adjustment and not a permanent one.

Until Matthews or head coach Mike McCarthy says otherwise, that has to be considered hearsay and not taken too seriously.  It very well could just be some natural brother-on-brother ribbing that occurs any time two family members go up against each other in an NFL game.  So many will try to make a story out of this when there is more than likely nothing there.

With Julius Peppers showing he still has plenty left in the tank, this gives the Packers the flexibility to move the much younger Matthews around the field.  With Peppers already playing the "elephant" role in Dom Capers' scheme, adding another moving piece in Matthews is a huge luxury for the Packers to have.

Opposing offenses would then have to account for both Matthews and Peppers moving around.  With Nick Perry also showing some improvement and getting some additional playing time, there is suddenly a lot of flexibility for Green Bay to generate a pass rush with a lot of different players.   With the Eagles coming to Lambeau Field this Sunday, this would be huge against a very up-tempo offense that Chip Kelly runs in Philadelphia.

While this experiment has worked so far, Matthews need not worry about a permanent move.  He is the best pass rusher on the team and he will be outside on obvious passing downs.  The Packers need to be able to utilize Matthews' speed and aggressiveness to their advantage.  It just so happens to turn out that he can use those abilities to stop both the run and the pass.

Going forward, Green Bay probably still will want to draft an inside linebacker in 2015 and perhaps could even find one in free agency as well.  They need a permanent presence there to allow Matthews to continue to do what he does best: rush the passer.

Until then, lining him up at the inside is a good band-aid solution.  It's not the long-term answer, but it's a good stopgap until the Packers can address the need properly in the offseason.  It sure confused the Chicago Bears, but the real test will be Sunday against Kelly and LeSean McCoy.

It's time to unleash the Claymaker.