Though the New Orleans Saints beat the Green Bay Packers, we should not forget that two players in the green and gold had superlative games.
One was on the defense, and one on the offense. One performance was not expected at the beginning of the year. The other couldn’t have been predicted in a thousand years.
Martinez Breaks Out in Year Two
First up is inside linebacker Blake Martinez. After a nice career at Stanford, his first year in the pros went so-so. He started nine games, but he wasn’t a starter by the end of the season. His top tackling game in 2016 was in week 10: 10 tackles against the Titans. For the regular season he had 69 tackles in 13 games played. He also had one sack, one interception, and three tackles for a loss. He already has one sack, five tackles for losses, a fumble recovery, and four passes defended so far this year.
Martinez started modestly this season, but then began to turn it on. In week 3 he established a personal high of 11 tackles in the overtime win against the Bengals. Two weeks later he bested it, with 12 tackles, in the defeat of the Cowboys. Against the Saints, he obliterated that mark, with 16 tackles in a losing cause.
In his last five games, Martinez is averaging 11.4 tackles. When is the last time Packers fans witnessed anything like that? In 2016, Morgan Burnett led the team with 93 tackles; playing in 15 games, he averaged 6.2 per game. In 2015, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, playing every game, had 100 tackles, for a 6.25 average. In 2014, Burnett had 129 tackles, for an 8.6 average over 15 games.
You’d have to go back to the A.J. Hawk days to look for any closer comparisons to what Martinez has been doing on the year. In his nine years in Green Bay, Hawk reached triple-digits five times in total tackles. His best year, somewhat unfortunately, was his rookie year: 121 tackles, for an average of 7.6 per game. For his nine years in Green Bay, Hawk averaged 6.5 tackles per game.
As to number of tackles in a single game, Hawk had a 15-tackle, a 14-tackle, and some 13-tackle games, but he never accomplished what Martinez just did against the Saints. Neither has Burnett ever had a 16-tackle game.
Aaron Jones Is Making Packers History
Packers fans are elated over how well Aaron Jones has done in the past three games. And this was after not getting a carry in the team’s first three games of the year. Though three games is a very small sample, he’s doing great for an NFL rookie who was a lower round draft choice.
Hell with that, he’s competitive with any Packers running back in this century.
In his second game, against the Cowboys’ win in week 5, Jones rushed for 125 yards in 19 carries. I reported at the time that Eddie Lacy only topped that yardage twice in four years, and James Starks only once in seven years.
In addition to getting a new personal best of 131 yards, in only 17 carries, on Sunday, Jones also had his longest run to date, that 46 yard touchdown jaunt.
That makes it 297 yards in the last three games – and an average of 6.1 yards per rush. Lacy barely exceeded that total twice in his rookie year, and once more in his second year — but in his best three-game stretch, for 317 yards, it took him 75 carries to get there; Jones got to 297 in only 49 carries.
Other than for Lacy, we’d have to go back to Ryan Grant. From 2007 to 2012, Grant had two three-game stretches that narrowly exceeded Jones’ total. Before him, Ahman Green, who played with the Packers from 2000 through 2006, exceeded 300 yards in three games a number of times.
Some seasonal team records or rookie records are in reach of each of these two players if they can continue at the pace they’re going.