The Green Bay Packers have lost linebacker Clay Matthews for at least one month after breaking his thumb against the Detroit Lions. Matthews was already suffering from a sore hamstring he sustained before the bye week, so this broken thumb just adds insult to injury. Along with Matthews, linebackers Brad Jones and Robert Francois also suffered injuries. Jones left the game on Sunday with a hamstring injury, while Francois tore his Achilles tendon, effectively ending his season. With those three linebackers out, the Packers defense is now running very thin in that crucial spot on the field.
With Matthews out, it means second year linebacker Nick Perry will assume the role of the leading pass rushing linebacker. Last year, the Packers drafted Perry in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, hoping that he could join Matthews as a pass rushing threat for the Packers defense. Unfortunately, Perry’s rookie season was cut short due to injury. But, with Matthews out for a while, Perry is ready to take the role of the head pass rusher. The Packers drafted Perry in the first round for good reason. Obviously, they hoped that it would be alongside Matthews, but his injury forces Perry to excel his play to another level.
However, if the Packers decide to keep Perry on his side of the field, the team will more than likely put lineman turned linebacker Mike Neal in Matthews’ spot instead. Neal recorded his first sack of the season against the Lions and was a constant force in the backfield all game long. Now, I’m not expecting him to put up Matthews-like numbers, but if he can continue to disrupt the opponent’s offensive line, Neal should be able to contribute to the Packers defense.
Being down three linebackers heading into a road game against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens will not be an easy task for the Packers. But, in their 2010 Super Bowl run, they did finish the regular season with 15 players on injured reserve and were able to preserver and win the Super Bowl. If any team can rally from injuries, it is the Packers.