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Blake Martinez Wants to Be Your Coverage Linebacker

Blake Martinez

The Green Bay Packers don’t care about the inside linebacker position. That much is clear.

If they did care, they would have addressed it with a high draft pick at least once in the last few years.

But general manager Ted Thompson places no value there. He’s happy to wait around and fill the inside linebacker group with mid- and late-round picks.

Fourth-round pick Blake Martinez is the latest addition to that group. He’ll battle 2014 fourth-round pick Jake Ryan and 2013 seventh-round pick Sam Barrington for snaps.

At first glance, all three of those guys look pretty much the same. Thumpers, who aren’t particularly fast, that can play the run.

And that’s not real good for a football team that was using their best pass rusher as a coverage inside linebacker way too often in 2015.

Despite the similarities, the Packers obviously think Martinez is their coverage guy.

He doesn’t appear to have the speed to fill the role. His 4.71 combine 40 time was actually slower than Ryan’s 4.65. However, Martinez has covered just about everything and has been pretty solid in doing so.

“This last year,” Martinez said, “they left it all to me. Every single time we were in our nickel package and our dime package, I would basically stay in. We’d bring in another corner, and I’d go out and cover the tight ends, running backs and those types of things. I felt like this last year, I improved tremendously on that. I feel 100 percent confident to go out there and cover whoever I need to cover.”

And he’s confident too.

That’s what potentially separates Martinez from Ryan and Barrington.

It also gives the Packers options.

First, Clay Matthews can rush the passer on passing downs.

Second, the Packers can line up Barrington and Ryan in the base defense and bring in Martinez in sub-packages. He can fill the role Joe Thomas filled last year. In the event the opposition runs the football, Martinez likely won’t get blown five yards backwards like the too small Thomas usually did.

Or — and this is what we see as being more likely — Martinez replaces Barrington in the starting lineup.

We love Barrington as a run stopper and we love the fire he brings to the defense, but he’s as slow as molasses in January. The Packers play nickel more often than they do their base defense because the NFL is a passing league. That’s where Barrington’s lead feet are a liability.

It seems unlikely the Packers will want two inside backers that can’t cover on the field at once at any time.

We already know Ryan isn’t very good in coverage. That has more to do with experience than speed, in our estimation, so he has room for improvement.

Barrington, on the other hand, isn’t going to get any faster.

That could well mean he’ll be filling a backup role in 2016.

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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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8 Comments

  1. Pack Attack May 4, 2016

    Are we forgetting that this staff doesnt play rookies? At least not right away

  2. icebowl May 4, 2016

    Opponents in 2015 preyed on lack of short coverage….

    Packers need an ilb to replace Barrignton/Ryan combo, who is smooth in his drops and has the footwork to turn and run with tight ends or even slot receivers. Martinez may have the athletic skills and certainly seems to have the confidence to run with athletic tight ends such as Graham or Gronkowski.

  3. Big B May 4, 2016

    Why do we have to discuss this year after fucking year after fucking year. Just got done with the draft a week or so ago and here we are… Talking about how we need to fill the hole at ILB!

  4. Howard May 4, 2016

    Again, Barrington ran a 4.67 40 at his pro day, so to say Barrington is way slower than Ryan or Matinez is false. Compare Barrington’s pro day results to the other two and Barrington is every bit as fast as the other two. In fact if Barrington is healthy and that is a big if he can cover better than Ryan.

    Both Barrington and Ryan played OLB if not all at least the majority of their college games, so converting them to ILBs may have taken a slower process than what it may with Martinez. Martinez has been an ILB so he understands the position. I know Barrington won’t let a TE or WR run across his zone within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage without knocking him on his ass. I would bet Martinez knows better also, unlike Palmer and Jones who gave receivers free access into what should be no mans land without paying the toll. Ryan does need to improve in coverage from last year. Barrington can handle RBs in coverage most of the time, if he can just stay healthy. Let the competition begin.

    1. PF4L May 4, 2016

      Barrington may just look slow, because he’s indecisive and many times looks lost in coverage. Lets save the 40 times for tight ends and receivers and corners and track stars. Give me a linebacker, that plays “football fast” that can make plays and i’m happy.

  5. Andy Pants May 4, 2016

    I’m confused, Joseph. Do the Packers and Ted Thompson place “no value” in the inside linebacker position, or did they just draft a “confident” ILB who “gives the Packers options,” and who could potentially be a starter this season?

  6. Savage57 May 5, 2016

    Defending the short crossing route is something the Packers are incapable of.

    Nice job, Ted. Maybe one of those tackle can cover.

  7. Kato May 5, 2016

    It is stupid to spend an early draft pick on an ILB. Unless it is someone like kuechly. Then you have to luck out and be picking toward the top of the draft