Clay Matthews understands that read-option offenses are becoming more common in the NFL, and the fifth-year outside linebacker is adjusting the way he plays to cope with the scheme.
The adjustment is largely predicated by the Green Bay Packers' loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 playoffs. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards in the game, and the flat-footed Packers defense was unable to counter the Niners' play calling. Matthews told ESPN how he's needed to change the way he approaches pass rushing.
"You have to sit there and play patty cake with the tackle, making sure the quarterback doesn't escape the pocket. You have to read and make sure who's taking the ball, who's not. It's difficult for me to just kind of sit back, especially when Kaepernick was having such success throwing the ball that game, too, which caught us by surprise."
Matthews managed to sack Kaepernick once in their Jan. 12 game, but did not have the impact he's accustomed to. It remains to be seen whether the read option will become a permanent staple of NFL offenses, or flame out much like the Wildcat, which was popularized by the Miami Dolphins in 2008 before becoming ineffective.
One thing is sure: as teams select more mobile quarterbacks in the NFL Draft, it opens the possibility for the read option to be added to their playbooks. Defenders like Matthews are wise in adapting now, rather than being caught off guard again.