As Acme Packing Company continues its look at the Green Bay Packers' 90 man roster, we move from examining the returning inside linebackers to the ones who joined the team during the offseason.
As Clay Matthews is set to return to his natural position at outside linebacker, the Packers inside linebacker core looks rather thin. This may cause them to call upon their 4th round pick from this year's NFL Draft in Blake Martinez to immediately step up and help try to stabilize this seemingly worrisome position.
Blake Martinez, No. 50
H/W: 6'2", 237 pounds
2015 Stats: 141 total tackles, one and a half sacks, six pass break-ups
Martinez comes to the Packers coming off a highly productive and prolific season in 2015 at Stanford. He was named to the AP All-American third team and AP first team All-Pac 12 along with being a Butkus Award (top collegiate linebacker) semi-finalist among many other accolades. Martinez is a highly productive tackler who plays smart against the run and showed improvement in 2015 against the pass. He also can contribute immediately on special teams as well. He has a good frame and has a nose for the ball. Martinez's quickness will be called into question with constantly running all over the field and rushing to the line of scrimmage, but this was a solid value pick on early day three.
Martinez is not only a lock for the 53 man roster, but he could find himself into a starting role before long if he is able to show off his versatility against both the pass and run alongside Jake Ryan (most likely). With Sam Barrington coming off a serious foot injury, this could be the perfect opportunity for Martinez to earn immediate playing time. Regardless, he will be relied on heavily right from the get-go in 2016.
Beniquez Brown, No. 43
H/W: 6'1", 236 pounds
School: Mississippi State
2015 Stats: 99 total tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, four sacks, one interception
A productive outside linebacker at Mississippi State, Brown will most likely have to transition to inside linebacker to have a better shot at making the Packers 53 man roster. He is undersized for the outside linebacker position at 236 pounds but is the ideal size for inside linebacker. He is a sure tackler who does not relent when wrapping up, can work his way through blocks, and is good with his communication on field. The problem for Brown is that he is a marginal talent when it comes to athleticism and does not have the best of instincts against the run.
Because he is transitioning most likely to a new position and is very raw, Brown faces an uphill battle to the 53 man roster and has a similar journey as Carl Bradford. With how his career has gone so far, Brown should hope for a better outcome than Bradford. But he is most likely destined for a spot on the practice squad if he remains with the team beyond training camp.
Manoa Pikula, No. 45
H/W: 6'1", 234 pounds
2015 Stats: 49 total tackles, two and a half tackles for a loss, one sack
Pikula is an interesting prospect who I had to do a little more digging to find about him. Thanks to our sister SBNation blog, Vanquish The Foe, I was able to find out a little bit more about him. Pikula played inside linebacker all four years while at school and shows a knack for being disruptive at the line of scrimmage. He also goes after the quarterback in the backfield and has solid gap sealing abilities against the run. With a solid Pro Day including a 4.57 forty yard dash, Pikula was able to impress Green Bay enough to sign him to an undrafted free agent contract.
While this position's depth is lacking a good amount, Pikula, like fellow undrafted free agent rookie Beniquez Brown, faces an uphill battle for a spot on the Packers 53 man roster. He may be a long term prospect who gets some looks during training camp, but unless he "wows" the coaching staff during camp, Pikula's best shot with the team may be on the practice squad.