2. Inside Linebacker Roles
Blake Martinez is the quarterback of this defense and a top-10 run defender. Jake Ryan actually graded out better than Martinez did per Pro Football Focus. However, neither of them are great in coverage, nor was the aforementioned Josh Jones when he played linebacker. The team drafted Oren Burks out of Vanderbilt to help fill this void.
In today’s NFL, running backs playing slot wide receiver is becoming a more commonplace occurrence. Players on the Packers schedule this season, such as LeSean McCoy, Todd Gurley and Dalvin Cook, among others, are all major threats out of the backfield. This is where Burks could be able to usurp Ryan in playing time. He has experience playing multiple positions in three years in college, which includes being a converted safety that will help his abilities in coverage. Although Burks may never be the starter, he could quickly earn his way onto the field with the athleticism that made him a third-round draft pick.
Ryan is the most experienced of the Packers linebackers with a full extra season over Martinez. However, his lack of athleticism has constantly shown itself in all three years. Unless that has changed this offseason he will be forced off the field in obvious passing situations. After playing only slightly more than half of Martinez’s snaps last season, that number could shrink even more this season.
NFL offenses and defenses are evolving and getting more athletic every year. This is forcing team’s to adapt and change by moving on from more old-school players to new era style players.