It probably won’t be known until very late in the week before the Packers’ next game against the Lions if the left hamstring injury that ROLB Clay Matthews suffered while attempting to sack QB John Skelton in the third quarter of the Week Nine win over the Cardinals will be sufficiently healed.
But with head coach Mike McCarthy saying only that Matthews was expected to be out “a couple of weeks,” the possibility that the Packers’ undisputed best defender could be sidelined for at least the Detroit game appears strong.
The way our sources on the Green Bay scene see it, while the Packers probably could get by for one game without Matthews — with the quartet of Erik Walden, Dezman Moses, Jamari Lattimore (eight snaps on the outside in the Week Nine win over Arizona) and newly activated Frank Zombo collectively picking up the slack — any more time off for Matthews could spell real trouble for a team that has been bombarded by injuries for the second time in three seasons.
Should Matthews sit out the Lions game, we hear the best bet to replace him in the starting lineup would be Moses, who is coming off a solid performance in the Packers’ last game, with Zombo, fresh off the physically-unable-to-perform list, backing him up. Whether Moses starts on the right side or the left side — with Walden moving to the right side that Matthews primarily occupies — remains to be seen.
The assumption the Packers could survive sans Matthews for the very short term is based mostly on the consistently strong play displayed so far this season by Walden, who was clearly outplaying first-round draft pick Nick Perry in a time-share setup on the left side before Perry became the fifth Packer to be placed on injured reserve this season.
But with Matthews considered “three times better than any pass rusher on the team,” according to one team insider, the prevailing feeling in Green Bay is that the defense could be in extremely dire straits if he’s forced to miss more than one game.
Which might make a decision to sit Matthews in Week 11 — and avoid the risk of doing further damage to a hamstring that has been more than a little temperamental during his four-year career — an idea worth seriously considering.