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Here’s How the Packers Acquired De’Vondre Campbell

De’Vondre Campbell is a guy who, ever since he was a high schooler in Florida, has been working, learning, and improving as a football player. It’s been a long and winding road, but Campbell now has landed where he belongs. With Jaire Alexander and Za”Darius Smith sidelined, I’d say he’s Green Bay’s most valuable defensive player so far this season.

De’Vondre was no five-star recruit. His first college ball was played out in Jordy country, at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College. He got enough notice as a Blue Dragon to go on to play at the University of Minnesota from 2013 through 2015. While there, he improved his tackle totals from 39 to 75 to 92. He showed himself to be an all-purpose defender, adept at tackling, blitzing, forcing turnovers, and playing tight pass defense.

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell (59) is shown during the first day of training camp Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.

The Falcons liked what they saw and drafted him in the fourth round in 2016. He proceeded to start at outside linebacker in his first game as a pro. Though injuries limited to him playing in only 11 games that season, he stayed healthy all of 2017, and his stats shot up to 92 tackles, four pass deflections, and two sacks. The victim of his first sack as a pro happened to be Aaron Rodgers. It appeared that Campbell was on his way to secure employment, if not stardom.

De’Vondre finished out his four-year rookie contract with the Falcons, getting better each season: in 1918 he recorded 88 tackles (according to nfl.com) and that number then soared to 122 in 2019.

Following that great season, as a free agent in April of 2020, he pocketed good money by signing on with the Arizona Cardinals, for $6 million for one year. Though he started all 16 games in 2020 for the Cards, and recorded 91 tackles, the Caards let him go, and he still was not a highly sought-after free agent in 2021.

The Packers didn’t pick him up until June, when GM Gutekunst obtained him at the bargain rate of $2M for the year. It’s been said that he passed up offers of more money to play for the Packers. Rob Demovsky recently described the situation this way:

“His previous team, the Arizona Cardinals, had loaded up on young, high-draft pick players at his position – Isaiah Simmons (No. 8 overall pick in 2020) and Zaven Collins (No. 16 in the 2021 draft). If the Cardinals didn’t land Collins in the first round, they may have taken another look at Campbell.”

Campbell has started every game since for the Packers, including last Thursday’s big win. His stats stand at: 76 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 QB hits, 3 passes defended 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a sack, and 2 interceptions. Seven of those tackles were recorded by Campbell Thursday night – against his former team – along with a sack and two tackles for loss. Campbell was on the field for every defensive snap against the Cards.

Projected over a 17-game season, Campbell would be in store for accumulating 161.5 tackles. He currently ranks fifth in the league in tackles. There’s already talk of him being named a Pro Bowler or even All-Pro at season’s end.

Campbell has all the physical equipment needed to be a formidable inside linebacker. He’s 6’4” and weighs 232 pounds, which strikes me as a perfect size for the job – though the prototype for ILBs for the past decade has been the Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner, who at 6’ and 241 pounds posted a 4.46 dash time in 2012. Campbell’s speed (4.58 dash time) is fast enough to allow him to make plays all over the field. The Packers alternate at lining him up next to Kris Barnes at inside linebacker, or letting him be the sole ILB, similar to how Blake Martinez was employed for all those years.

He’s probably the most adept pass defender the Packers have had as a linebacker in more than a decade. And while on that subject, when have the Packers ever had so many pass break-upping players? Besides Campbell, there’s the incomparable Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, and Chandon Sullivan. This is a scrappy group of ball hawks.

Since pundit Aaron Nagler has been critical of those who are all-negative concerning Kevin King, I’ll provisionally add his name to the above list. It seems that when KK can play without worrying about whether his quarry will go deep, he clings closely to his man. He has recently shown some ability to provide good coverage when playing slot CB – but so has Sullivan.

As to other attributes, Campbell is a sure tackler, and one who has no trouble putting running backs of his own size on the ground. He also wears the helmet with the headset that relays the defensive play calls from the sidelines. Because of his long dreadlocks, it’s easy for fans to spot him as he covers a lot of real estate on the field.

Going into this season, I was concerned that the Packers had failed to plug a gap they’ve had for years in their defense at ILB. To the surprise and relief of a great many fans, GM Gutekunst took to the streets and enticed De’Vondre to come and help Green Bay go all the way this season. If it happens, Campbell will be in line for a heaping amount of the credit.

It’s been an uphill but steady journey for De’Vondre, but at 28 years of age he has seemingly found his niche in the NFL: smack in the middle of the underrated Green Bay defensive alignment.

Gutekunst’s Coup

This brings us back to the rhetorical question that Aaron Rodgers shouted out during the Bengals’ game: “How in the hell was this guy [Campbell] on the street?”

Rob Demovsky provides us with part of the answer, as he has described the situation this way:

“His previous team, the Arizona Cardinals, had loaded up on young, high-draft pick players at his position – Isaiah Simmons (No. 8 overall pick in 2020) and Zaven Collins (No. 16 in the 2021 draft). If the Cardinals didn’t land Collins in the first round, they may have taken another look at Campbell.”

These are very high draft choices, and ones not normally spent on inside linebackers, who are generally considered to be of much less value than QBs, edge rushers, cornerbacks, and the like.

In his season and a half with the Cards, and playing in every game, Isaiah Simmons has recorded 107 tackles, 4 TFLs, 4 QB hits, 2 INT’s, and six passes defended. Arizona rookie Zaven Collins has played in all eight of the Cards’ games this season, and started in five of them. His stats, however, are meager: 17 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 PDs. De’Vondre’s numbers by the end of this season will likely surpass those of both of Arizona’s two spendy ILBs combined.

In the meet-up with Green Bay, Simmons did have six tackles and 1 PD, but was otherwise not a factor. Collins, who has handled just 32 percent of the defensive snaps on the year, was on the field for only three plays against the Packers.

As to which general manager is the better talent evaluator, it appears to be Gutekunst in a rout over Cards’ GM Steve Keim (and for that matter Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons GM from 2008-20). Keim has been the Cards’ GM since 2013. Had the Cards not let Campbell get away at the end of his 2020 contract, they likely would have emerged the winner a week ago. Score one for Gutey, as well as for Campbell.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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9 Comments

  1. Mick November 3, 2021

    Good article Rob. Campbell is legit! I’m one of Gutes’ biggest critics, along with others in here; but credit goes to him for getting this player. Also, they say Joe Barry knows talent at the LB positions. Credit him for making Campbell the guy that relays the play calls. This guy leads by example and I think that aggressiveness and sure tackling boosts the entire defense.

    Reply
  2. Killer November 4, 2021

    In other news, we now know why Piffle sniffs Rodgers panties.

    They are homeopathic panties Rodgers makes himself.

    Reply
    1. PF4L November 5, 2021

      And that folks, was one of his more intelligent comments this year.
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      Keep up the good work Princess!!
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      SKOL :)

      Reply
  3. Killer November 5, 2021

    Wow, Rodgers is straight tripping. He sounds like a conspiracy nut ready to lead QAnon meetings. Lies and more lies and then he gets angry when his lies are outed. How dare the lowly inferior heathens (which is everyone but himself) ever doubt any of lies! Don’t they know that he is smarter than them?

    He did clear up something. I wasn’t sure what the Hell “woke” was. It turns out is it anyone or anything that detects or does not believe a Rodgers lie.

    Reply
    1. Dean November 5, 2021

      Hey look, Killer showed up — did the Vikings win last week?

      Reply
  4. Dean November 5, 2021

    Just wondering why GB was able to sign Campbell when no one else was able to — or wanted to. It’s probably related to what Howard said about GB presenting the best place for a talented ILB to excel.
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    It’s none of my business and I only know the names of 2 GB players that did not take the jab (Rodgers and Lazard). What if a team was OK signing un-vaccinated players. Could that be turned into an advantage if a team could pickup good players that were not vaccinated and other teams stayed away from??

    Reply
    1. Killer November 6, 2021

      That’s a fair question and an interesting thought. I’m not aware of any players out there that should be, for instance, starting on a team instead of not on any team. If starters and better were let go over Covid and no one else would sign them, then it could become an advantage to a team.

      However, it would need to be a big talent upgrade to justify the negatives. The negatives are that you’d get players much more likely to miss time, have to be paid for sitting at home, and more likely to spread disease to other players as well. Those are significant downsides so the talent differential would need to be huge.

      Reply
    2. Howard November 6, 2021

      Dean, One place to look that will give you a clue of who is not vaccinated is team photos of players boarding the plane for away games. It is not definitive, but there are a few players that board the plane wearing masks while many do not wear masks and do not have masks on their necks or ears. Rodgers for example never wears a mask, but has a bandana of some type around his neck. In addition Rodgers always walks to the plane by himself. With that said LaFleur always wears a mask while boarding the plane. It is possible some players and the head coach wear masks to not make the unvaccinated stand out, or because they just want to try to be as safe as possible? The bottom line is the ones not wearing masks and do not have masks close, such as around the neck are most likely vaccinated.

      Reply
      1. Dean November 6, 2021

        I’m not interested in knowing who is or who is not. My point was that a savvy team could use it to their advantage if say they already had a Marque MVP type player who was not vaccinated for covid.
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        Say word gets out that un-vaccinated players are treated fairly and not pressured to do something they are not comfortable with by team leaders ( could be a player(s), coach, or GM doing the pressuring). Lets say 1/2, 1.5 years from now the Perception among players is that the vaccine was forced upon them. I would think free agents would be inclined to figure out and remember how each team handled this situation. After all, it is there life we are talking about. They would line up to play for that team.
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        Not much downside risk to the savvy team with the un vaccinated MVP — your season is dependent on him having a good year anyway….

        Reply

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