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Coverage is the Need for Packers at Inside Linebacker

Reggie Ragland

It seems like everyone would love the Green Bay Packers to take an inside linebacker high in this year’s draft.

Many have pegged that guy as Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland. Others have suggested Ohio State’s Darron Lee, assuming Ragland would be gone when the Packers pick at No. 27.

While both of those guys are first-round talents, they may not provide what the Packers actually need in terms of an inside linebacker.

That need is someone who can cover on third down.

The Packers used Clay Matthews extensively in that role in 2015, but Matthews is moving back to outside linebacker this season. Backup Joe Thomas was also used almost exclusively as a coverage linebacker. The problem with Thomas — even though he is solid in coverage — is he’s too small to be an every-down linebacker.

The Packers already have two inside linebackers who can play the run — Jake Ryan and Sam Barrington.

If they were to draft someone like Ragland, the Packers would have to believe he’s a true three-down linebacker. If they don’t, they may as well pick someone else because they already have two solid two-down inside linebackers on the roster.

So can Reggie Ragland cover anyone?

That’s what Pete Dougherty tried to find out and the answer was a definitive, “Boy, we’re not sure!”

“The biggest question mark I have about Reggie Ragland is how well he can cover, because you never really saw it at Alabama,” an anonymous scout told Dougherty.

Here’s another.

“He’s a little bit of a deceptive athlete, so he does have some ability to stay on the field (on passing downs). He’s not the ideal coverage linebacker, but he’s pretty athletic and he’s sharp. He’s a smart dude, so he can get other people lined up. He doesn’t put himself in tough situations. Pretty instinctive guy.”

That’s a red flag if you ask us.

Ragland is 6-1, 247 pounds, which is ideal. He also ran a 4.72 40, which is not, especially for a guy you’d be asking to cover.

In fact, Ragland looks like a slightly more athletic Barrington (6-1, 236). They’re essentially the same size, but Ragland is a bit faster. Barrington ran a 4.91 40 back in 2013.

Still, that 4.72 time isn’t anything to write home about. Historically, it wouldn’t put Ragland in the top 50 percent of inside linebackers.

We imagine fans will riot if Ragland is on the board at No. 27 and the Packers pass.

We’ll just shrug our shoulders and assume Ted Thompson and company don’t think Ragland can cover. If he can’t or they don’t believe he can, then he’s not a huge upgrade over what’s already on the roster at inside linebacker.

Thus, that first-round pick would be better spent elsewhere.

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Joseph Bonham

Joseph is a fiction writer when he isn't doing this. In his spare time he likes to do manly things like drink beer and procreate.

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22 Comments

  1. Pocahontas April 22, 2016

    Darron Lee is actually a good cover ILB, but he was asked to cover slot WRs while at Ohio State.

  2. Bryan Rocheleau April 22, 2016

    Finally someone touches on this point about Ragland.

  3. Kato April 22, 2016

    I was on the Ragland bandwagon early on, but now I find myself stepping off a bit. If he indeed cant cover, then he isnt worth the pick at this spot. Take an offensive or defensive lineman.

    I don’t get too worried about 40 times for ILB, I am more worried about quickness in space, which 40 times do not accurately measure. Elite three down ILBs are usually taken early if they ever are available. A spot the packers haven’t had the luxury of picking in for quite a while.

  4. Kato April 22, 2016

    Btw, I enjoy these articles that are about football. Not TMZ or making TT a personal punching bag

    1. Ted Hawthorne April 22, 2016

      TT’s tight-ass judgement isn’t about football? He could
      have had CJ Mosley in the 2014 draft if he wasn’t such
      a rigid weirdo. Instead he went for Adams, Thornton
      and Bradford–all busts.

      1. Phatgzus April 23, 2016

        Except Mosely went in the FIRST round 4 picks before the Packers, ya dumb fuck.

  5. Big Gay Clay April 22, 2016

    It’s funny how no one wants Ragland now that he “can’t” drop into coverage. He’d be an upgrade over any one of our line backers and let’s be real we could use any kind of LB that can cover. Doesn’t have to be set to MLB. We also have Gunter, who I’m sure will be seeing a lot of playing time next season covering TE’s.

    1. Phatgzus April 22, 2016

      “He’d be an upgrade over any one of our line backers”

      Pretty sure you meant INSIDE LB and you don’t know that.

    2. TyKo Steamboat April 23, 2016

      I’m tired of getting run over up the middle. We’ve needed a “thumper for years now…

  6. Big Gay Clay April 22, 2016

    Oh yeah and one more thought, we don’t have a single big hitter on our defense. Ragland is a thumper and would set the tone in between the tackles. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched RB’S run free inside or watched a receiver on a shallow route to only get arm tackled when they should be getting blown the fuck up

    1. Phatgzus April 22, 2016

      You conveniently forgot about Sam Barrington, he is a thumper.

  7. Big Gay Clay is dumb April 22, 2016

    Ragland sucks, we need a power backer

  8. Feck April 22, 2016

    Are we sure Barrington and Ryan are The Guys even as 2 downers? Plus injuries. Having 3 thumpers might mean 2 healthy at any given time. How about Ragland and a cover guy in the 4th?

    1. Phatgzus April 22, 2016

      Are we SURE ANYONE in the draft is? no, but Ryan and Barrington have both shown a good bit of promise

  9. vj April 22, 2016

    Yes, our first pick would be better spent elsewhere (NT)…Look, you can get the same player as Ragland in Joshua Perry in Rd2. We’d be better off taking a run and chase guy like Darron Lee, Sua Cravens or Deion Jones in Rd2 or 3 to add depth and coverage abilities on 3rd down. This article is actually spot on about our perceived “need” at ILB. We have two presumed starting thumpers for 1st and 2nd down. We need a that speed guy for 3rd downs.

    Well done.

  10. Vano Lucas April 22, 2016

    Sports Illustrated’s mock draft has Ragland as Green Bay’s #1 pick and their scout says he’s an attack machine against the run and vastly underrated as a cover guy. SI has Green Bay going with DE Jihad Ward out of Illinois in the second round. This guy is a 6-6 athlete who weighs 300 pounds. I have seen him play several times. He’s going to be a beast for somebody.

  11. Howard April 22, 2016

    I said a few weeks ago that we already have two Raglands on the team. To me Ragland is not needed. Probably will be gone anyway to a team that needs a thumper. Do need an upgrade as far as a cover ILB. Arizona may have set the new trend in using a large fast safety type as the coverage ILB. Can get one of those later.

    I agree with the article except you really need to look at Barrington’s performance at his pro day. Barrington was hurt at the combine. Barrington exceeds all of Raglands combine numbers. Ragland may have better instincts against the run out of college but to say he is a better athlete? One last thought is, no one is concerned a thumper such as Ragland did not bench press at the combine because of his shoulder? In addition that entire Alabama D did not perform well against a speed team like Clemson, Ragland included.

  12. PF4L April 22, 2016

    This article reminds me of Fitzgeralds 75 yard run and catch, i can’t help but replay that play in my head, over and over. I may need counseling.

  13. Big Gay Clay April 23, 2016

    Did I stutter when I said he was an upgrade over any LB. Maybe except for clay. What about Peppers? Oh yeah he plays with his hand in the dirt just about every snap so I wouldn’t really consider him a true LB. As far as Barrington goes I don’t think anyone is sold on him. I think I’d rather take a Saban coached MLB in the first round and see what he can do :)

    1. Phatgzus April 24, 2016

      Waste of a pick if there are good big men available, end of story.

  14. Icebowler April 23, 2016

    Take the BPA. This year it looks like it may very well be a D-lineman. Especially in the 1st round, if not the 2nd as well. Sorry Clay, but you may have to stay inside, at least thru the first four games. The Pennell and Raji situations changes what MM said about you going back outside.

    1. PF4L April 24, 2016

      I never bought in on Thompson’s take on the BPA business model, which was just vindicated recently. Listening to Thompson’s latest interview, is it just me, or is this guy riding right off the tracks? Holy fuck dude.

      When Ted did take the BPA, it’s not bad strategy in and of itself. The problem (was) is, knowing who the best player is.