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Jake Ryan Has Improved, But Is It Enough?

Per usual, no one would suggest the inside linebacker position was a strength for the Green Bay Packers in 2016. We’ve long noted how the Packers under Ted Thompson undervalue the position.

Green Bay went into the 2016 season with two fourth-round picks — Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez — and an undrafted free agent — Joe Thomas — manning the middle.

Although he came in with much fanfare, Martinez didn’t make the impact that was expected. The Packers drafted him and then touted him as a three-down linebacker. However, the area in which he was supposed to excel — coverage — was the area he happened to be the worst at. Martinez was eventually replaced by Thomas in the lineup.

That presented a whole other set of problems. While Thomas is the best cover guy of three, he’s by far the worst against the run. Not only can Thomas not get off blocks effectively, he often gets bowled over and knocked backwards by ball carriers.

That brings us to Ryan, the only one of these three guys who was anything resembling solid in 2016.

Ryan finished second on the Packers with 82 tackles, trailing only Morgan Burnett’s 93, despite missing two games to injury. He also defended three passes. In the postseason, Ryan led the Packers with 20 tackles. That may seem unspectacular, but Ryan improved dramatically from his first season to his second.

The question is, is Ryan’s improvement enough? The answer seems pretty simple to us.

Yes, if the Packers put someone competent next to him. Joe Thomas is not that guy and Blake Martinez has not proven he can be that guy.

The easy answer here is to move Clay Matthews back inside, where he actually seems to stay healthy and where he would solidify that position. Matthews has proven year after year, he can’t stay healthy as an outside linebacker. He also just turned in his worst career season while playing that position.

That does weaken the outside linebacker spot, a place where the Packers have too many questions the way it is. Regardless, with or without Matthews outside, the Packers are going to need to address their edge rusher spot.

We’re not holding our breath on free agency, but if Thompson were smart, he’d address both inside and outside linebacker this offseason. If Matthews is the guy for the inside, then the Packers probably need to address outside linebacker twice in one way or another.

Even if Jake Ryan continues to improve, it still looks like there’s a gaping hole next to him.

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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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4 Comments

  1. Howard February 18, 2017

    Ryan improved and Martinez was injured (knee). I think Martinez is a guy that will do anything it takes to improve as long as he is healthy. I expect he will make a big jump. The guy that bothers me is Thomas. He did get in trouble getting off blocks. In today’s NFL (passing) it may not be the end of the world not being the best in run defense unless a team is trying to run out the clock or a bad weather game. For a guy who is the dime or coverage linebacker Thomas sure gives up a lot of 3rd down catches in his area or to his coverage responsibility. I think it was the Dallas playoff game on one play the back, or TE on Thomas’s side of the field caught the ball and Ryan who was on the other side beat Thomas to the tackle. Maybe Thomas was wore down by seasons end, but I think the team has two (Ryan,Matthews) if not three (Martinez? Needs to prove it) better coverage inside backers than Thomas.

  2. PF4L February 18, 2017

    I have absolutely no axe to grind with Jake Ryan. But lets put our thinking caps on shall we.

    Did Ryan really improve, or just play a lot more snaps? This is why PFF is such a joke. And they actually charge people for this shit…lol.

    PFF…For people that can’t think for themselves.

    Most improved my ass, talk about a phony proclamation. Here’s the truth…..

    Ryan played 260 snaps in 2015, had 50 tackles, 0 FF’s…0 int.

    Ryan played 559 snaps in 2016, had 82 tackles, 0 FF’s…0 int.

    Gee, isn’t it strange he’d have 32 more tackles playing 299 more snaps? Who would have thought of it? Apparently not PFF.

    So Ryan played MORE than double his snaps. So couldn’t you argue he should have had double the tackles?

    If PFF wants to proclaim him “Player with most increased snaps” that’s fine.

    But fuck…..keep it real. If you go by the #’s, you could say he regressed.

    People pay for PFF, but they read my shit for free….somethings wrong here.

    1. Kato February 20, 2017

      Lol PPF doesn’t go by strictly #s. They grade each individual play through extensive film study. How well they performed their responsibility. Go to hell.

      1. PF4L February 21, 2017

        I was only talking about tackles and snaps little man. If you can’t understand my post, have someone read to you, and then ask them to explain it to you ok little man?

        I made a valid point. your response is “Go to hell”

        Why are you so angry and full of hate?

        Btw….What is PPF?