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Packers 2018 ILB Acquisitions: Oren Burks’ career starts slow, Antonio Morrison finds a role

A rookie, a journeyman, and a veteran all joined the Packers this year and found small roles to play.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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.

The Green Bay Packers added four players to their inside linebacker group in the 2018 season, a group that consisted of one draft pick, one undrafted rookie, one journeyman, and one last minute veteran. All were added with specific roles in mind, and to varying degrees, they filled their roles. None stood out as stars or immediate impact players. Still, with Blake Martinez leading the NFC in tackles, role players were pivotal.

Oren Burks

How Acquired: Third-round pick in 2018 NFL Draft (No. 88 overall)
2018 Stats: 24 tackles (18 solo)

Burks came in with some high expectations. A third round pick is generally expected to see the field a fair amount. Burks hurt his shoulder coming out of training camp and did not get a fast start. He managed just four starts through the course of the season. He is a smaller linebacker and the hope was he could be involved in the pass game. If he can stay healthy, then he still have a chance to be a valuable player, but he has not found a way to be an every down player yet.

Antonio Morrison

How Acquired: Trade with Indianapolis Colts (Aug. 26th)
2018 Stats: 48 tackles (27 solo)

Morrison joined the Packers late in training camp, coming over from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for cornerback Lenzy Pipkins. Morrison started 15 games for the Colts last year and started eight games for the Packers in 2018. He found a role as a run-stuffer in the Packers’ defense, but was not an every down player. He managed to help around the line of scrimmage and clean up plays in the run game.

Korey Toomer

How Acquired: Signed as unrestricted free agent (Sept. 3)
2018 Stats: 3 solo tackles

Toomer was added just after final cuts for his ability to play special teams. He did see 12 snaps on the defensive side of the ball, but was mostly cast as a special teams player. He had a limited role on the team and was eventually released in late November.

James Crawford

How acquired: Undrafted rookie free agent signing
2018 Stats: 9 tackles (8 solo), one fumble recovery

After playing in the second halves of preseason games on defense, Crawford ended up making the team thanks in large part to a dominant special teams performance in the fourth and final exhibition game. He became a core part of Ron Zook’s units, and although they were arguably the worst special teams in the league, Crawford was not necessarily a reason for it. He lined up on the field for over 70% of the team’s special teams snaps, and the front office may view him as a core special teams player moving forward into 2019.