ShadygetsPack

Clay Matthews intends to be one-armed bandit against Eagles…

I admire the kid's confidence. Clay Matthews says he's ready to play again with a wrapped broken thumb…and that could be the rally point the Packers need after losing Aaron Rodgers to a broken clavicle for the big game in Green Bay this Sunday vs. the Eagles.

Matthews feels like he’s playing with one arm. “It does (stink),” Matthews said. “But I’ll do the best I can with it and we’ll see what that means come Sunday."

“I just have to get used to playing a little more with one hand and be comfortable throwing it in there. I’m taking baby steps.”

Matthews does expect to return to action on Sunday against the Eagles, but how much he’ll play after missing the past four games with a broken thumb is undetermined. How effective he can be is another question as well. He said he has played with a cast before but never a club.

In recent years, the Packers have had other defenders play with clubs, including defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins and safety Morgan Burnett, but neither played Matthews’ outside linebacker spot.

It’s somewhat uncharted territory for Matthews whether as a stand-up pass rusher he can disengage from a blocker using essentially one arm, or whether against the run he can use a clubbed-up right hand to help fit into the proper gap. He said he’s taking it “day by day” as far as learning how to use the club and getting accustomed to it.

“I hope he’s very effective,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s a dynamic football player, and it’ll be great to get him back on the field.”

The Packers also hope to get fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry back from a foot injury. He was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday.

The potential return of the starting duo comes none too soon for the Packers. Since Matthews got hurt against Detroit in Week 5, the Pack's defense has just one sack from an outside linebacker, and that was a strip-sack by Perry in the first half at Baltimore in Week 6. That’s when he hurt his foot and he’s been out since. The defense has also produced just one turnover while Matthews and Perry have both been out.

With Mike Neal (knee) and Andy Mulumba (ankle) also on the injury report now, the linchpin position of Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme needs any reinforcements it can get. The Packers’ pass rush was noticeably non-existent last Monday against the Bears, and if the ball has to be thrown a half-second sooner, that can only help the Packers' defense as a whole.“No doubt about it, and it’s vice-versa,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “It always works together. But definitely, the ball will have to come out earlier. Those guys are definitely difference-makers.”

Philadelphia QB Nick Foles is quietly becoming a difference-maker, running new coach Chip Kelly’s fast-break, up-tempo offense that can limit defensive substitutions and packages. Called “red hot” by McCarthy, Foles is coming off a seven-TD performance at Oakland last week and has the league’s leading rusher in LeSean McCoy (777 yards) next to him in the backfield.

“They do a good job using that no-huddle, keeping their offense on the field, being relentless as far as their play-calling is concerned, so they catch a lot of defenses on their heels,” Matthews said. “We’ve been working hard as far as getting the calls out there quick. We’re going to treat it like a two-minute offense.”

The Green Bay defense’s leader, Matthews is calling for a matching level of urgency from the entire unit, and from the entire team, as the Packers navigate a stretch of games minus Aaron Rodgers.

Limited as he is by "the club", Matthews will only be able to do so much. “Just where we’re at in the season, with our quarterback going down, it’s time for other positions to elevate their game and really carry this team until Aaron comes back,” he said. “Until then, I’ll try to do the best I can to help this team out with one arm.”

Meanwhile the Eagles' feature running back LeSean McCoy reacted to Clay Matthews' words with a mix of respect and disdain.

After the Eagles' Week 1 victory over the Washington Redskins, it looked like LeSean McCoy was going to have a career season.

He had 31 carries for 184 yards and a touchdown that night, a performance that seemed to set the stage for big things to come.

That would prove to be his best game of the season thus far, however, which led to questions Wednesday about whether the running back was becoming upset about his lack of touches in recent weeks.

"I still lead the NFL in rushing," McCoy said on Wednesday. "So I can't be that pissed."

Yes, McCoy does still lead the league in rushing with 777 yards, but in the last three games, he's only had 45 total carries — causing his production to slip as the season has gone on.

McCoy carried the ball just 12 times in the Eagles' latest victory over the Oakland Raiders, finishing with a season-low 44 yards. The main reason McCoy didn't get the ball vs. Oakland, according to coach Chip Kelly, was because of how well the passing game was working.

"I've said it since Day 1, we're an equal opportunity deal," Kelly said. "If you want to let us throw it, then we're going to throw it. If you want to let us run it, then we're going to run it. If for some reason the running game is not working but we're throwing the heck out of the ball, then we'll continue to do that."

Still, there have been plenty of days where the passing game has struggled and McCoy still hasn't been getting the ball. McCoy had just 15 carries in the Eagles' loss to the New York Giants in Week 8, a game in which third-string QB Matt Barkley struggled. McCoy had just 18 carries in the game before that vs. Dallas, when Nick Foles had one of the worst games as a quarterback in Eagles history.

That was a far cry from the 31 carries he got on opening night. "You can't worry about that kind of stuff," McCoy said. "The individual yardage will work itself out at the end. We have a couple more games left. The biggest thing is winning."

McCoy's recent lack of carries has led to somewhat of an up-and-down season in terms of yardage — even though he's No. 1 in the league. He has hit the century mark in rushing yards just three of nine games this season, which is the same amount of games he has finished with less than 50 yards.

It's hard to point to the carries being given to Bryce Brown as an excuse, too, as the second-year running back Brown has yet to have more than 10 carries in a game this season.

"We never look at one guy from an individual statistic standpoint and say, 'Hey, we're not getting this out of him,' It's 'Are we moving the ball?'" Kelly said. "We were in a pretty good rhythm on Sunday and we did move the football. Whether it's through the air or on the ground it really doesn't matter how we're doing is it as long as we're moving it."

Even with the limited carries, McCoy has managed to be productive overall. He is averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per carry this season, which is second to only Adrian Peterson amongst running backs who have over 150 carries, and fifth amongst running backs who have over 100 carries.

He also has 29 catches for 320 yards. Only DeSean Jackson has more catches on the Eagles.

"Coach Kelly is the kind of coach where you could talk to him about anything," McCoy said. "If carries were a concern, I would bring that up." And for now, at least, it doesn't appear to be a concern to McCoy.

"Look," said McCoy, "I think Clay Matthews is dangerous to our offense even if he is playing with only one good hand. We need to account for his presence but not shy away from attacking his position. He's a guy who needs to be neutralized. We need to keep him off balance. That's where I come in. I will either knock him into the ground on a pass rush or run right by him on a delayed release. He knows this, and I know this… neither of us is afraid of one another. So let the  game's flow and its final outcome tell you who ended up zooming whom…"

Man, that's the kind of talk I like to hear from one of our guys heading into Green Bay. It reminds me of the Thrilla in Manila, the third and final fight between Ali and Frazier.  The pre-match chatter was similar.  And what a battle it was…

 

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.

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