Over the past season and a half, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has been used as a Swiss Army knife of sorts in the Packers’ defense. He has played almost exclusively at inside linebacker on base downs, moving back to his traditional pass-rushing outside linebacker position when the Packers move into the dime package.
This offseason, head coach Mike McCarthy expressed his desire to move Matthews back outside full-time, however. In an effort to help with that transition, the Packers added Blake Martinez as a fourth-round draft pick, who has been settling in nicely. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers spoke about Martinez on Friday, saying “I don’t think the mental part of it is going to be a problem” for the rookie.
Martinez has earned some first-team reps on defense already in training camp, suggesting that Matthews’ move could indeed be permanent. However, when Capers was asked about it, he left the door very much open to using Matthews on the interior once again:
Capers asked if #Packers are good enough at ILB for Clay Matthews to be full-time OLB: "We'll have to figure that out as we go along."— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) July 29, 2016
Now, by no means does that mean Matthews will be back in the jack-of-all-trades role that he played last season. However, as the question implies, Matthews’ role should be at least somewhat dependent on how Martinez develops in camp, as well as the return of Sam Barrington and the play of Jake Ryan and the reserves at the position.
Still, don’t be surprised if you see Capers line Matthews up on the inside from time to time this season. Opposing offenses always need to account for the location of #52 when they play the Packers, and moving him around is one way that Capers can keep his opponents uncomfortable. He also showed that he is more than just an outside rusher, as he proved to be an effective blitzer from the inside.
However, it’s clear that McCarthy feels that Matthews can have his greatest impact by playing outside exclusively. Hopefully the young inside linebacker group plays well enough that Capers does not feel required to shift him back inside with regularity.