The Green Bay Packers open training camp next week. Time to look at each position on Mike McCarthy’s team. Next up is the inside linebacking corps.
With the summer comes the anticipation of another NFL season. For the Green Bay Packers, it begins in earnest on July 26 when both rookies and veterans report to training camp. It’s been quite a run for Mike McCarthy’s club. In 2016, they won the NFC North for the fifth time in six seasons and have now reached the postseason eight consecutive years.
Here we are in the midst of a series which will look at the Packers’ various positions and how they stack up heading into camp. We have already previewed the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line. We have already looked at the defensive line and outside linebackers. Now let’s focus on the inside linebackers.
It sounds like a broken record (for those of you who remember vinyl). This past season, the Green Bay Packers’ defense was a sieve. It finished eighth in the NFL by allowing 94.7 yards per game on the ground. But that numbers was deceiving to say the least. In the team’s first four games, Dom Capers’ unit allowed a total of 171 rushing yards. But in their last 15 outings (including playoffs), this same club watched opponents run for a disappointing 110.2 yards per contest.
Along with the defensive front, the team’s inside linebacker group of Jake Ryan, Joe Thomas and Blake Martinez bear responsibility for the shaky showing. No one among this trio really established themselves as a standout performer. Of course, we are also talking about players with limited experience. Martinez was a fourth-round pick in 2016 and Ryan was taken in the same round one year earlier.
Simply put, the Green Bay Packers need this trio to continue to progress. In terms of Martinez, he earned very low grades when it came to pass coverage (via Pro Football Focus). All told, it will be interesting to see where this group stands by season’s end. Meanwhile, their improvement is key to the defense’s success this fall.
Russell S. Baxter covers the Green Bay Packers for Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter at @baxfootballguru. Looking for more Packers news and features? Like our Packers Facebook page HERE and also follow @spot_packers on Twitter.