That’s the word out of Green Bay. Rookie inside linebacker Blake Martinez could be an opening day starter for the Packers.
First, it’s important to note that possibility is out of the ordinary. Rookies just don’t start on day one for the Packers. Clay Matthews, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Damarious Randall — all pretty good players, none were immediate starters.
Coach Mike McCarthy values veterans because they know the system and, even if they don’t possess the same amount of talent, they rarely make mistakes. At least that’s how McCarthy’s thinking goes.
This door has been opened by Sam Barrington, who hasn’t participated at all this offseason. Barrington remains sidelined with the foot injury that cost him all but one game of the 2015 season. That has left Martinez with the opportunity to line up with the No. 1 defense. He’s the only rookie who has been afforded that opportunity and the coaching staff apparently likes what they see.
“He looks very comfortable,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think he’s done a really nice job transitioning from the base defense to the sub defense, his command, the echoing of the calls. He’s very bright. Quick. And he definitely is a very instinctive player. He’s off to a very good start.”
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers basically echoed McCarthy’s assessment.
“What I do like about Blake is, No. 1, he’s very sharp — which you expect a Stanford guy to be sharp,” Capers said. “And I think he’s very conscientious. He’s not afraid to ask questions. I think he’s going to be an attention-to-detail guy. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to be able to study the opponent and be able to play the percentages and probably gain a little bit because of that. The guys that I’ve been around that are smart and instinctive, a lot of times they pick up a step or two in anticipation.”
We knew inside linebacker would be a position to watch when training camp rolled around.
And that will be the real test. Nothing really gets decided in OTAs.
The decision between Barrington and Martinez will be made after the Packers get a look at them in pads.
Barrington clearly isn’t doing himself any favors by not being on the field, though.
“Guys that are smart and instinctive pick up a step or two…” This guy has no speed or explosion. 28″ vertical?! I’m over 40, don’t work out, or take “supplements” and can still probably hit 28″. This kid is the next AJ Hawk. I look forward to him making 120 tackles a year 5-7 yards down field, getting smoked in coverage, and diving on piles late. He even has his number. I hope I’m wrong.
At this point I might be willing to take another A.J. Hawk.