Matthews Returns To LA With The Rams, As The Chargers Think What Might Have Been – Forbes


Linebacker Clay Matthews, shown here sacking Redskins quarterback Alex Smith during action last season, was signed by the Rams and returns to LA where he starred in high school and at USC. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Rams threw open their arms to new linebacker Clay Matthews during the third phase of their offseason workouts.

Meanwhile the crosstown Chargers all but covered their eyes.

Longtime observers of both teams had different takes on the six-time Pro Bowler returning to the West Coast.

Wade Phillips, the Rams’ defensive coordinator, was giddy with the possibilities of where the versatile Matthews will reside in his 3-4 alignment as his unit attempts to keep pace with the revved offense.

That’s no misprint that the Rams were No. 23 against the run and No. 19 in total yards during last season’s Super Bowl run, a far cry from the team’s No. 2-ranked offense.

The Chargers got raked over regarding Matthews. The USC star was available in the 2009 NFL draft when then-San Diego was on the clock at No. 16. With the Chargers seeking at pass-rushing linebacker most assumed Matthews was en route to America’s Finest City.

Instead former general manager A.J. Smith was A-OK going instead with Northern Illinois’ Larry English.

In any language, that was a massive miscue.

Matthews went on to win a Super Bowl title with the Green Bay Packers in a stint which saw him start 137 games and collect 83.5 sacks.

English’s production was light years away, as he started nine games and recorded 11 sacks before exiting after five seasons that were mostly dotted with injuries.

Mistakes, the Chargers have made a few, and fewer still match picking English over Matthews.

All that’s in the past and it’s clear Matthews, and the Chargers, are looking ahead. Except it’s the Rams with a future which includes Matthews.

“It just seemed like a perfect fit,” Matthews said.

Where Matthews, who signed a two-year, $9.25 million deal with $5.5 million guaranteed, will be slotted is fluid.

In the base defense he’ll be on the outside. In passing situations he’ll be inside and outside and good luck guessing which way on what particular down.

Matthews is being asked to do more than find the quarterback. He’s yet another savvy veteran the Rams have acquired during coach Sean McVay’s tenure that is graded highly for his leadership.

Think left tackle Andrew Withworth, cornerback Aquib Talib and another newcomer this offseason in safety Eric Weddle.

McVay ponders Matthews’ pedigree and predicts he’ll be another solid addition.

“He’s been in an organization where they’ve consistently won doing things the right way,” McVay said. “He’s been a world champion.”

Matthews has also been around LA enough to know when to avoid the I-405 and where the best places to chow around the LA Memorial Coliseum, the Rams’ home for one last year.

Matthews went to Agoura High School, which is near the team’s practice facility in Thousands Oaks, and he played downtown for the Trojans. He got a taste of LA last season when the Rams beat the visiting Packers, 29-27.

“To come back here and play in front of the home fans and see the professional organization that’s come out here now, was pretty fun,” Matthews said.

“I had a blast playing. It was a great game. I look forward to getting back out to the Coliseum and hopefully, in the future, that new stadium.”

What’s old is fresh again for Matthews. The son of 19-year pro Clay Matthews Sr. is primed for another Super Bowl trek, although this one is in the City of Angels instead of the dairy land of cheeseheads.

“To have this opportunity now feels great,” Matthews said.

Now, and in 2009, Matthews remains a selection the Chargers wish they could have back.

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