After it greatly exceeded most league observers’ expectations in 2009, Dom Capers is still expecting a lot more from his multifaceted 3-4 scheme in his second season as the Packers’ defensive coordinator.
That’s especially the case when it comes to the pass rush.
Although it wasn’t too shabby statistically, ranking 12th in the league in QB sack percentage, the fact that a major portion of the pressure came from just one player — 2009 first-round phenom Clay Matthews — is cause for concern.
Providing tremendous energy with a motor that never stopped running, Matthews set a franchise rookie record with a team-leading 10 sacks. But the gap between Matthews and the second-most productive Packers sacker was significant, with DRE Cullen Jenkins next in line with 4½ sacks.
The way daily team observers see it, however, there is major reason for optimism regarding the pass rush.
Start with Matthews, who genuinely believes the sky’s the limit for him after bulking up to 261 pounds this offseason (after playing in the 245-250 range as a rookie) courtesy of the MMAthletics workout regimen endorsed on a national scale by Fox football insider/workout fiend Jay Glazer.
Matthews said he was “in the best shape of my life!!” in a recent Twitter message. Considering that he didn’t crack the starting lineup as a rookie until Week Four — when he immediately turned heads on a national Monday-night stage after literally ripping the ball out of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson’s hands en route to a 42-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown — a truly special sophomore campaign could be fast approaching.
An equally big reason for optimism, we hear, is fellow ’09 first-rounder B.J. Raji, who is widely expected to greatly improve the interior pass rush as the team’s new starting nose tackle.
While Matthews wasted no time making his presence felt in ’09, Raji scuffled his way through a lost season in comparison, starting only one game and registering only one sack after being severely limited initially by a contract holdout and an ankle injury in the final preseason game.
We hear defensive line coach Mike Trgovac’s decision to have Raji concentrate primarily on his run discipline as a rookie further limited Raji’s repertoire, which is expected to be on full display in 2010.
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