On Sunday the Redskins will have their eyes on No. 52 for the Packers. Outside linebacker and pass rusher Clay Matthews is one of the NFL’s premiere defensive players and he will be spending Sunday afternoon trying to make sure that Robert Griffin III doesn’t get comfortable enough to find the groove that eluded him much of Monday night.
On Thursday, the Green Bay media asked Matthews to comment on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh implying that he is a dirty player in the wake of a personal foul penalty Matthews drew for hitting San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick out of bounds.
“I’m an awesome player, not a dirty player,” Matthews said with a smile.
Anyone you talk to in the Redskins locker room will agree although they might have some private thoughts about his style of play.
Left tackle Trent Williams will be the player primarily responsible for stopping Matthews, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons in the league. But if Matthews beats Williams or if Matthews lines up elsewhere along the line and beats his man, the last line of defense for the Redskins could be running back Alfred Morris.
Morris isn’t particularly concerned about who might be coming at him if he has pass protection responsibilities. “I don't like to look at names on jerseys or numbers or any of that stuff,” he said on Thursday. “If you're wearing a different color jersey from me you're my opponent, you're my enemy.”
A lot of backs struggle in pass protection when they come into the league. Most of them were stars on campus and they were rarely asked to do the dirty work of keeping their quarterbacks upright. Even those who were responsible for picking up blitzes quickly find out that cutting down an onrushing NFL player like Matthews is quite different from stonewalling the defensive end from State U.
Morris got up to speed on pass protection quickly. According to Pro Football Focus he allowed a sack in his NFL debut against the Saints last year and he hasn’t allowed one since.
“I took pride coming in from college and I still take pride in now, everybody can run, catch, do all that stuff but not too many guys want to stand in there and block,” he said. “The way I look at it the only person standing between the quarterback and the defender is me and I'm going to do my best not to let him sack the quarterback.”
But does he think he has to hunker down a little bit more when he’s going against Matthews, who has 43.5 career sacks?
“I know who it is but I don't look at it like that,” said Morris. “When you look at somebody like that or oh, it's Ray Lewis or oh, it's Clay Matthews or whoever, I respect them but at the same time you've got to do your job, I've got to do my job and I'm not going to let you beat me.”