CHICAGO - DECEMBER 13: Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a sack against Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 13, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
There’s no doubt that there’s been a push over the last year for teams to begin running unconventional offenses. Players like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have led that charge, but Packers linebacker Clay Matthews may have the solution for defenses.
“One of the things that the referees have told us is that when these quarterbacks carry out the fakes, they lose their right as a quarterback, a pocket-passing quarterback, the protection of a quarterback,” Matthews said via NFL.com. “So with that, you do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they're too important to their offense. ... So you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable.”
This is nothing new, and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has already put it out there that Matthews’ approach sounds a lot like “targeting a specific player,” but the fact is hitting players works. How do you stop a potent over-the-middle passing game? Hit the receivers. How do you make a pocket passer uncomfortable? Hit him. This is nothing new.
Still, the sheer number of hits read-option quarterbacks could take may be enough to deter many teams from running the system. Sure, Robert Griffin III will likely still run a read-option play here and there, but the Redskins won’t be putting him in the path of that many hits any time in the near future.
The fact is, defenses are often put into a corner by the NFL’s rules. If, for instance, Colin Kaepernick gets injured on a read-option play after he gets rid of the ball, there may be a “Kaepernick rule” introduced following the season. For now, however, simply hitting the quarterback will probably work. Guys like Colin Kaepernick are simply too expensive and important to be put in the way of danger very often.