This might be hard for many of you to believe, but the Green Bay Packers’ linebacker who was the most prolific tackler in recent memory is none other than A.J. Hawk. For the three-year period of 2012 through 2014, Hawk averaged 111 tackles.
Not that long ago, was it?
For some teams, those are ho-hum numbers, but not for recent Green Bay teams. Here are the team’s top tackling linebackers, other than Hawk, of late: Brad Jones, 77 (2012); Brad Jones, 84 (2013); Clay Matthews, 71 (2014); Nate Palmer, 67 (2015); and Jake Ryan, 82 (2016).
Brad Jones? Nate Palmer?
Here are the NFL linebackers who recorded 150 or more tackles from 2012 through 2016:
171 – Vontaze Burfict (CIN) – 2013
167 – Bobby Wagner (SEA) – 2016
164 – Luke Kuechly (CAR) – 2012
162 – Paul Posluszny (JAX) – 2013
159 – Kiko Alonso (BUF) – 2013
156 – Luke Kuechly (CAR) – 2013
154 – NaVorro Bowman (SF) – 2015
153 – Luke Kuechly (CAR) – 2014
151 – DeAndre Levy (DET) – 2014
150 – D’Qwell Jackson (IND) – 2015
What gives? How come Green Bay cannot field a linebacker with even half the number of tackles of the league leaders?
It could be that the statistic is misleading.
In 2016, here are the snap counts for the Packers’ inside linebackers: Thomas 61.4 percent, Ryan 59.3 percent, and Martinez 42.6 percent.
Maybe this year one of the three will emerge as an every-down player and wind up with a similar number of tackles to what Hawk was able to achieve.
The Packers need at least one three down inside linebacker that is not named Thomas. That is one of the reasons the other teams listed linebackers are top tacklers, they don’t come off the field on third down.
It has concerned me for years that the Packers leading tacklers are always safeties. With the NFL going more to passing it makes some sense safeties may have more tackles, but the safeties should not have more tackles than the inside linebackers. If your safeties are consistantly the top tackler(s), your defense in the front seven are failing and that includes the lineman.
As discussed in a previous article the defensive lineman for the Packers are overall undersized in height and weight. To me height or length in a defensive lineman help in the pass game, but also help keep offensive lineman off linebackers in the run game. I know you can’t hold as a defensive lineman but that extra length does help you reach the guy you are going to hold up.
Packers linebacker group lacks a prolific… a n y t h i n g….
Their ILBs are fine. Like Howard eluded to, better play on the defensive line would help in a lot of areas. LBs can flow to the ball better in the running game. I noticed quite a few times last year that the defensive line maintained poor gap integrity. Some more pass rush ability would also help the linebackers into more one on one matchups or free rush situatuons, giving the secondary a better shot and reducing the need to blitz out of the secondary to manufacture a pass rush. It all starts up front. Ask the 07 and 11 NY Giants.
Hawk excelled at jumping on a guy after said guy gained 6-7 yards. It wasn’t like Hawk was preventing 1st downs or making game changing plays out there. The defense was still shitty during that 3 year stretch referenced in the article, same as it has been pretty much since the SB.