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Inside Linebackers Learning on the Job

This was not the way Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur planned to solve the Packers inside linebacker deficiencies. Only 28.2 percent of players drafted in Rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7 were retained at the end of their first contract. Seventh round picks have the lowest retention rate of any round of draft picks. By your third year, odds are your seventh round picks are no longer with the team that drafted them, or on any NFL roster. A seventh round starter in year two? You’re better off buying a lotto ticket.

The Packers 2019/2020 offseason tried to focus on upgrading the inside linebacker position. The Packers showed dependable Blake Martinez the door. Packer braintrust refused to invest big money on a player with coverage liabilities who lacked a history of impact plays or the ability to create turnovers. The Packers signed a lower priced experienced free agent, Christian Kirksey, gambling on his troubled injury history. That wager has not paid dividends. Kirksey is on IR and his pectoral injury may be similar or even related to a pectoral injury that ended his season and required surgery in 2019.

The Packers drafted a highly regarded player in Kamal Martin in the 5th round. Martin would have gone higher but he also had an injury history. Again, the Packers gambled on that injury history, and so far have lost their ante, although his hand has not been fully played. He is eligible to return after the bye week against Tampa Bay.

ILB Krys Barnes

Oct 5, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Atlanta Falcons fullback Keith Smith (40) is tackled by Green Bay Packers linebacker Krys Barnes (51) during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Now the Packers’ best options at inside backer are 2019 seventh round pick Ty Summers and rookie UDFA Krys Barnes. Summers and Barnes have shown incremental improvement and faults based on a review of the small number of game day snaps they have played. Summers is fast and can get to the hole — on many plays better than Martinez. He has been exposed trying to tackle premier NFL RB’s. To be fair, he has gone up against the Saints Alvin Kamara and the Falcons Todd Gurley. That is a master’s degree crash course for a first time player. Each of those prior MVP quality backs can make one defender look foolish and any D-Coordinator would emphasize gang tackling to ensure success. That said, improvement is required or he will be replaced.

Barnes is already drawing positive feedback for his play. He was named by PFF as one of their defensive rookie All Stars. They praise both his tackling and pass defense. If Barnes continues to progress he could be the best defensive player in the Packers 2020 draft. But that development must come quickly if the Packers Super Bowl dreams are to become a reality.

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Paul Edwards

Paul Edwards is a lawyer, victim advocate, writer, and long term Packer fan and Packer history enthusiast.

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17 Comments

  1. NobodysBurfect October 12, 2020

    An honest question to anyone willing to answer; why is the MLB position undervalued so much? It’s not just the Packers – unless a generational player like Luke Kuechly comes around, it seems like teams never draft a MLB in the top ten overall. But you look at a guys like Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis, Urlacher (a turd – but damn good at football), Eric Kendricks, Ryan Shazier before the injury, even what Patrick Queen is already doing…they’re difference makers! I mean they wear the headset for God’s sake! They’re responsible for covering tight ends, running backs, and sometimes slot receivers (depending on what package the D is playing). So seriously…what is it that I’m missing? Why is it that this team legitimately ignores the hell out of the position?

    As always – wash your hands, wear a mask, and stay healthy friends.

    Reply
    1. PF4L October 12, 2020

      You may remember Martinez stating that the Packers don’t put a high priority on the ILB positions. I believe(d) him for 2 reasons.
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      1) Martinez doesn’t come off as someone who makes things up.
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      2) I watch Green Bay Packer football.

      Reply
    2. Kato October 12, 2020

      Because there are so few of those impact ILB that are good in pass coverage. As of now, your elite ILB are basically Fred Warner, Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, and Myles Jack. And that’s it. There are some other good players, but most of them are either have a weakness in the run game or in pass coverage, usually the later. The NFL now uses so many RBs and TEs, along with a lot more pre snap motion, so linebackers that are able to diagnose where the runs are going despite all the misdirection in the backfield, have the size and strength to hold up in the run game, as well as having the instincts to play zone coverage and play man to man against basically any skill position player, all while being able to create negative plays for the offense. Those guys are just simply very rare.

      Reply
      1. NobodysBurfect October 13, 2020

        @Kato this is best reply – I know he was injured ultimately, but did Shazier go for us before HHCD in that draft? I know safety play was weak the year prior, but God I wish he would we would have grabbed him.

        Reply
        1. Kato October 14, 2020

          Yup, hindsight is 20/20 though. Hell, the same could be said for Myles Jack, although I would have probably stuck with their pick of Kenny Clark. The next round of that draft they took Jason Spriggs when Deion Jones was on the board. While he isn’t a star necessarily, he has been productive, with two forced fumbles, 32 pass breakups, nine interceptions, and four TDs. That one bothers me a lot. They don’t need a star at the position, they just need someone that is solid in pass coverage, is a good tackler, and can make big splash plays. Someone that can be a top 15 player at the position.

          Reply
  2. Kato October 12, 2020

    Kamal Martin returned to practice today, so there is a decent shot he makes his NFL debut on Sunday

    Reply
  3. Bill October 12, 2020

    So Urlhacher is a turd but ray lewis was involved in a murder and gets a pass.. nice work

    Reply
    1. NobodysBurfect October 13, 2020

      Ray Lewis is a turd – turds are everywhere, like your turd post that needed to bring in a black guy to “balance out” my valid criticism of a white guy. Turd.

      Reply
      1. PF4L October 13, 2020

        Ever notice….how the bar gets lowered each year where we judge whether someone is racist?
        .
        You back the badge?…Racist!!
        ‘.
        You don’t want players kneeling?…Racist!!
        .
        You want to bring up and discuss the destruction at Protest like arson, looting, vandalism?…..Racist!!
        .
        You want all the facts before you lay judgement?……Racist!!
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        Don’t call me a racist, I can’t be a racist, i’m black!!…….Racist!!
        .
        Slow news day :)
        .

        Reply
        1. Kato October 14, 2020

          Yeah, it’s the most common attack for someone you disagree with. Like back in 2008 when McCain was being called a racist by the Democrats, but now all the sudden he is one of them after Trump insulted him. Such is civil discourse nowadays behind keyboards, rather than civil face to face debate. Kamala Harris basically insinuates that Joe Biden is a racist and a rapist, 5 months later is his VP candidate. I have been called a “proud boy” and a “socialist” in one day, that’s how bad it has gotten. Because I tend to be a kind of middle of the road guy. Conservative in some ways, in others pretty liberal.

          Reply
          1. PF4L October 17, 2020

            I have to comment Kato…i didn’t see this until today.
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            We’re alike somewhat in that what i believe to be right, doesn’t always follow in political lines. I can be far right on something, but be on the left in others. I won’t be labeled, i think on my own and that’s where my viewpoint is developed, not by political lines.
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            I believe Trump has vision and he could have done some great things. But something got in the way….his ego. Being President, he seems to think he doesn’t have to answer to anybody and should be able to do what he wants…unquestioned. He thinks he’s untouchable. He will soon find out different in 3 weeks.
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            Want to be re-elected? Lying…saying stupid shit all the time is the wrong path.
            .

            Reply
  4. Big B October 12, 2020

    Patrick Queen looks to be an impact player so far: wonder why Packers passed on him for a 3rd string QB. That 4th round pick would have been useful too. Rodgers’ contract was such that Love pick premature; too soon to be thinking successor.

    I’m curious how ex-Packers are faring- seems like Bulaga has been injured a lot, and Fackrell/Martinez are producting Fackrell/Martinez numbers. Wise decisions to not resign any of those guys. Josh Jones just got suspended but he seems to have been having a productive season for the Jags, who knew? I wonder why he never worked out with GB, another high defensive draft pick wasted.

    Reply
  5. Ferris October 12, 2020

    Nice job Zimmer. I really wanted both teams to lose, but of course the Vikings blew it. You go up by 8 and take your chances. WE ALL knew what was going to happen. Bye Felicia.

    Reply
    1. PF4L October 12, 2020

      Post Game Presser:
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      Reporter: Mike…Why not get the field goal and go up by 8 forcing a TD and a 2pt conversion?
      Mike Zimmer: If we’ve got a chance to win the game, you’ve got to go for it.
      Reporter: How’s that working out for you?
      Mike Zimmer : Well…we are the vikings.

      Reply
  6. Skinny October 12, 2020

    Packers had a ‘dude” at ILB one time. His name was Brian Noble. Played in the dark ages of Packer football when the most important thing was making sure Majik’s weave looked tight.

    Reply
    1. Kato October 13, 2020

      Nick Barnett was pretty good back in the day

      Reply
  7. PF4L October 13, 2020

    Brian Noble was a football player.

    Back when a 5th round pick got on the field and contributed.
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    Nose in the dirt…Warrior….Football player.

    Back when 5th round picks didn’t take their signing bonus check and go home for the season to figure out how he wants to spend it.

    Reply

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