Packers Training Camp Countdown: 4 Days

Matthews (Joe Robbins - Getty Images)

Every day until the start of camp on July 26, we'll provide one juicy nugget to whet your appetite for the return of football. We'd give you more but the CBA forbids two-a-days. Sorry. The Packers were No. 4 in sacks by getting quantity, not quality, opposite top rusher Clay Matthews.

The Green Bay Packers finished fourth in the league with 47 sacks last season.

Clay Matthews had 13. Otherwise, it was a team effort.

Fifteen players had at least one full sack. That tied the franchise record set in 1987, though that total was padded by three weeks of replacement players. Only Cleveland (16) had more players contributing at least one sack last season.

Remarkably, the Packers' second-leading sacker, Mike Neal, had just 4.5 sacks. Only four teams' No. 2 player in sacks had 4.5 or fewer: Washington, Atlanta, Oakland and Jacksonville. Unlike the Packers, none of those teams mounted much of a rush. The Redskins tied for 23rd with 32 sacks, Atlanta was 28th with 29 sacks and Oakland and Jacksonville ranked next-to-last and last, respectively. The Packers, in fact, had more sacks than the Raiders (25) and Jaguars (20) combined.

The difference between Matthews and Neal was 8.5 sacks. That was a big gap but not the biggest. There was a 13.5-sack difference between Houston's J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith, a 13-sack difference between San Francisco's Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks and a 10-sack difference between Miami's Cameron Wake and Jared Odrick.

To be sure, Matthews' impact helped his teammates, though not in the way you might think. Scott Kacsmar recently wrote about sacks for ColdHardFootballFacts.com. In examining the 31 sack leaders since the NFL began tacking sacks in 1982, those teams' No. 2 sackers averaged 8.8 sacks.

Green Bay didn't have that kind of balance but Matthews' presence surely played a role in the numerous defensive contributions.

For the Packers to become an elite defense, they'll need a counterpuncher. That's why it's so important for Nick Perry to have a big second season.

When Matthews missed four games, the Packers tallied seven sacks and 23 quarterback hits, or 1.75 sacks and 7.75 hits. In the final three games that Matthews watched from the sideline, Green Bay had just two sacks and 13 hits. In the 12 games with Matthews, the Packers averaged 3.33 sacks and 9.67 hits.

Sacks: Top two players, all 32 teams

Denver (52): Miller, 18.5; Dumervil, 11. Difference: 7.5.

St. Louis (52): Long, 11.5; Quinn, 10.5. Difference: 1.

Cincinnati (51): Atkins, 12.5; Johnson, 11.5. Difference: 1.

Green Bay (47): Matthews, 13; Neal, 4.5. Difference: 8.5.

Houston (44): Watt, 20.5; Smith, 7. Difference: 13.5.

Minnesota (44): Allen, 12; Robinson, 8.5. Difference: 3.5.

Miami (42): Wake, 15; Odrick, 5. Difference: 10.

Chicago (41): Peppers, 11.5; Idonije, 7.5. Difference: 4.

Carolina (39): Johnson, 12.5; Hardy, 11. Difference: 1.5.

Tennessee (39): Morgan, 6.5; Wimbley, 6; Ayers, 6. Difference: 0.5.

San Francisco (38): Smith, 19.5; Brooks, 6.5. Difference: 13.

San Diego (38): Phillips, 9.5; Liuget, 7. Difference: 2.5.

Arizona (38): Washington, 9; Campbell, 6.5. Difference: 2.5.

Cleveland (38): Sheard, 7; Parker, 6. Difference: 1.

Pittsburgh (37): Timmons, 6; Harrison, 6. Difference: 0.

Baltimore (37): Kruger, 9; Ngata, 5. Difference: 4.

New England (37): Ninkovich, 8; Jones, 6. Difference: 2.

Seattle (36): Clemons, 11.5; Irvin 8. Difference: 3.5.

Buffalo (36): Williams, 10.5; Dareus, 5.5 Difference: 5.

Detroit (34): Avril, 9.5; Suh, 8. Difference: 1.5.

Dallas (34): Ware, 11.5; Spencer 11. Difference: 0.5.

N.Y. Giants (33): Paul, 6.5; Umenyiora, 6. Difference: 0.5.

Indianapolis (32): Mathis, 8; Freeney, 5. Difference: 3.

Washington (32): Kerrigan, 8.5; Jackson, 4.5 Difference: 4.

N.Y. Jets (30): Coples, 5.5; Wilkerson, 5. Difference: 0.5.

Philadelphia (30): Graham, 5.5; Cox, 5.5; Babin, 5.5. Difference: 0.

New Orleans (30): Jordan, 8; Smith, 6. Difference: 2.

Atlanta (29): Abraham, 10; Biermann, 4. Difference: 6.

Kansas City (27): Houston, 10; Hali, 9. Difference: 1.

Tampa Bay (27): Bennett, 9; McCoy, 5. Difference: 4.

Oakland (25): Houston, 4; Bryant, 4. Difference: 0.

Jacksonville (20): Alualu, 3.5; Mincey, 3. Difference: 0.5


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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