When the Green Bay Packers selected Blake Martinez in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, many expected the Stanford linebacker to push Joe Thomas for his role in the dime package. Instead, the rookie may end up winning a starting spot from veteran Sam Barrington. According to ESPN's Rob Demovsky, Martinez took snaps with the No. 1 defense "throughout" the Packers' OTA practices and looks likely to continue that trend during this week's minicamp.
Martinez's opportunity to battle for a larger role in the defense came partially as result of Barrington's continued recovery from a foot injury suffered during the Packers' 2015 season opener against the Chicago Bears. With Barrington still sidelined, Martinez has played next to second-year man Jake Ryan in the base defense, potentially giving the unit the coverage linebacker it has lacked in recent years.
"He looks very comfortable," head coach Mike McCarthy said of Martinez. "I think he's done a really nice job of transition from the base defense to sub defense, his command, the echoing of the calls. He's very bright. Quick. And he definitely is a very instinctive player. He's off to a good start."
Martinez still has more work to do to fend off Barrington. Once the veteran linebacker returns to the practice field, the coaches can evaluate which player better impacts the base defense.
Still, Martinez's early work suggests that a sizable workload awaits him even if the team opts to start Barrington instead.