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PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the fifth of five key matchups this week in advance of the Packers' Week Two game against the Panthers at Carolina Sunday.
Packers OLT Chad Clifton vs. Panthers DRE Charles Johnson
Clifton, who is coming off a Pro Bowl berth, was at his best last season when matched up against top competition. Down the stretch, he held his own against Bears DE Julius Peppers (twice), Giants DE Osi Umenyiora, Eagles DE Trent Cole, Falcons DE John Abraham and — last but not least — ROLB James Harrison in the Super Bowl. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Clifton's last six games (counting the four playoff games) were the best of his career.
After yielding only one pressure to the Saints' Turk McBride in Week One, Clifton will have to be at his best against Johnson, who more than justified his recent, hefty six-year contract extension in Week One by having his way with Cardinals OLT Levi Brown and registering a sack and two tackles for loss.
Coming off a breakout season (11½ sacks), Johnson was considered the top defensive end on the free-agent market this offseason. He's not as dynamic as Peppers was off the edge for the Panthers, but he is a relentless pass rusher, with strong moves both inside and outside, who gives great effort and is very strong at the point of attack.
Clifton, who turned 35 in June, was far from perfect last season, allowing a team-high eight sacks among Packers offensive linemen. He has a tendency to struggle with bull rushes and inside counters.
On Sunday, second-year pro Marshall Newhouse is expected to spell Clifton rather than first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod, an early disappointment who is likely to be inactive for the game.