Over a two week span, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2018 season. Today we examine the inside linebacker group.
In 2018, the Green Bay Packers’ inside linebacker group did not do many things to impress. There were not many splash plays. No interceptions, no scoop and score plays. It was a pedestrian group of players led by a solid starter. Blake Martinez made the headlines and played the role of fan favorite. There was not great depth at this position and it hurt at times.
2018 Stats: 144 Tackles (91 Solo), 10 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 3 passes defended
Starting all 16 games, Martinez had the most plays among all Packers linebackers. He was on the field for 98.6% of all defensive snaps, missing just 15 plays all year. Only the Colts’ Darius Leonard had more tackles this year. After getting just a single sack in each of his first two seasons, he ended up with five this year. Martinez also had six QB hits, double the total of his first two seasons. Part of the improvement in his pass rush might be the change in defensive coordinators from Dom Capers to Mike Pettine.
Still, Martinez was less involved in pass coverage this season. He has among the fewest passes defended among the league’s top tacklers — of the 18 players who had 120 or more tackles, just three had fewer pass breakups than Martinez.
2018 Stats: 48 Tackles (27 Solo), 5 TFL, 1.0 sack
Morrison was added to the team right at the beginning of the season. He was able to add some force and attitude near the line of scrimmage, but did not see the field in passing situations. He did not manage a single Pass Defended. Also, he only played 28.1% of the snaps.
He provided good size and run stopping ability to a team that lost Jake Ryan in the preseason. Still, he was a limited player with a clear role to play.
2018 Stats: 24 Tackles (18 Solo)
Burks was in his first year out of Vanderbilt after the Packers selected him in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He is a lighter, faster linebacker and it limited his usefulness on running downs. He suffered a shoulder injury during training camp and it hampered his ability to see the field much early. In a system that will need a pass covering linebacker, he should be able to see the field more in the coming years.
2018 Stats: 3 Solo Tackles
2018 Stats: 9 Tackles (8 Solo), 1 Fumble Recovery
Crowford saw only one defensive snap, but managed to play 70.7% of all special teams snaps. He was a guy for depth who gave the Packers good special teams play. With the failure of the Packers special teams in 2018, it is hard to see how much value he really might have provided to the season at large.
Overall Grade: C+
This collection of inside linebackers has a single player who produced at a high level. Packers spent a lot of time in single linebacker sets and Martinez was that linebacker. Meanwhile, Pettine lined up several safeties at linebacker as well, with Jermaine Whitehead, Josh Jones, and even Eddie Pleasant getting some snaps next to Martinez. Burks and Morrison had limited roles and the rest were special teamers at best. There is very little serious depth and not a lot of help if Martinez does not make the plays.