Clay Matthews III turns 31 today as he approaches his ninth year in the league. Once a game-changing player, he has slipped in recent year and is probably better as an inside linebacker today. Still, his motor never stops. The 26th overall pick out of USC in 2009, Matthews, of course, is the grandson of former 49er Clay Sr. and son of former Brown and Falcon, Clay Jr., as well as the nephew of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews – not to mention the brother of Casey and the cousin of Jake and Kevin, three other current Matthews clan members in the NFL.
Clay has been a Pro Bowl player six seasons and set the team rookie record for sacks with 10 in 2009. So far, his career high is 13.5 in the championship season of 2010, and he has been the best player on the team’s defense throughout his career. Still, although he has drawn All-Pro notice in four seasons, I view him as more of a Pro Bowl quality player than an All-Pro. He is always in motion on the field, but sometimes he runs himself right out of a play.
That’s not to say that he hasn’t make more than his share of big plays, just that I think there is rarified level of play above his. The 6’3” 255-pound Matthews is a versatile player who has been moved all over the defensive alignment. Primarily a right outside linebacker in 2009, he switched to the left in 2010 and 2011 before returning to the right in 2012. In 2014, he is to be commended for moving inside in midseason to replace the faded A.J. Hawk, and Clay played very well there, tightening up the team’s defense.
Aside from injury problems in 2012 and 2013, he has been very consistent. It is likely that Matthews (72.5) will pass Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (74.5) in the next season and become the team’s official all-time sack leader, although he will still trail Willie Davis on the actual list that Webster and Turney have compiled.
(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)
Custom cards in 196o Topps style.