GREEN BAY - Unless there are unforeseen wrinkles when the Green Bay Packers defense steps onto the field Sunday in Jacksonville, Clay Matthews will line up at outside linebacker.
Coach Mike McCarthy’s plan throughout the offseason was to play Matthews on the edge. The Packers still view him as an outside linebacker even after keeping only three inside linebackers this weekend.
“Absolutely,” McCarthy said. “My goal is to play Clay outside. That hasn’t changed. So anything you do that’s scheme-driven, there might be an exception, but his position is outside linebacker still.”
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One example of a "scheme-driven" exception could be rushing from between the tackles on passing downs. Matthews generally rushes from multiple spots throughout a game, including the A gap.
The Packers traditionally have kept five inside linebackers on their initial 53-man roster. They slimmed their allotment to four last year, then dropped it by one again this year.
A pair of fourth rounders — rookie Blake Martinez and second-year Jake Ryan — will likely get the bulk of inside linebacker snaps. Joe Thomas is the Packers’ third inside linebacker.
Carl Bradford, a fourth-round pick in 2014, was retained on the practice squad for the second straight year. Undrafted rookie Beniquez Brown joined him. In theory, Bradford and Brown give the Packers five inside linebackers. Either could be called up to the active roster at any time, but they also could be added to another team’s active roster.
A year ago, Thomas was used primarily as the lone inside linebacker in the dime package. McCarthy didn’t rule out a larger role this season.
“You’d like for all your linebackers to be four-down players,” McCarthy said. “I mean, that’s the goal. But that’s why you have different personnel groups, and quite frankly you have to look at the game we’re going to go play. We’ll have 46 guys, and it’ll be all hands on deck.
“We’ll want them all to contribute, and the substitution patterns will be important in this particular game. And it always is in the beginning of the year. Substitution patterns are always more challenging in my opinion the first four weeks.”