In 2019, the Green Bay Packers’ roster looks very different from how it appeared at the end of the 2018 season. A large group of free agents, draft picks, and undrafted rookies will come to training camp to challenge for roster spots and a role on the team’s regular season 53-man roster. Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company will break down the roster position-by-position and reveal our compiled predictions for the 53-man roster.
As alluded to in the roster preview earlier today, the Packers’ inside linebacker unit has been in flux the past couple of seasons with injuries, late additions, and undrafted players influencing the position. While a last-minute acquisition could be in play again this summer, Green Bay’s current group of middle linebackers makes up one of the most inexperienced positions of any on the roster.
One thing the Packers have going for them, however, is the return of Blake Martinez, a model of stability since the 2017 season. His veteran leadership should provide a steady hand to the youth on the roster, including a young player seeking a starting role. As APC’s roster predictions continue, the inside linebacker position keeps four potential contributors.
Starters: Blake Martinez, Oren Burks
No surprises here. Martinez returns for his fourth season in a green and gold uniform as one of the better defenders on the roster. His work in the weight room this offseason should help him only improve against the run after compiling 144 total tackles a year ago. A 32-game starter the past two seasons, Martinez has been a solid, steady player in the middle of a defense that added notable players both behind and to the sides of him via free agency and the draft.
Is Burks ready for a starting job? On paper, he is the most likely inside linebacker ready to emerge into that role and the Packers could sure stand to benefit from an ascension into even a dependable depth role. The former third-round pick has the athletic traits to become a playmaker in time, and reliability from Burks in coverage and reading the field could help free Martinez to blitz the passer more routinely. If Green Bay cannot re-sign Martinez after this season, the 2019 season becomes even more valuable in Burks’ development.
Backups: James Crawford, Ty Summers
APC writers are banking on growth from year one to year two for Crawford to maintain his spot on the active roster. A core special teamer in 2018, Crawford’s time in the offseason should help prepare him for a larger role on the defensive side of the ball. While fans can count on safeties assisting in the box on passing downs, Crawford should also help provide depth inside.
As a recent draft selection, Summers seems destined for a similar role as Crawford a season ago. The TCU standout fits the mold of former picks Martinez and Jake Ryan, but adds a higher level of speed and athleticism. His ability to help the special teams units while improving his knowledge of the defensive system will be imperative to earning a final roster spot. This site’s writers feel he will be able to do just that.
Released: Curtis Bolton
As of now, APC writers believe Bolton will be the odd man out in the final cutdown. However, Bolton is seemingly a prime candidate for the practice squad as a potential special teams contributor while he grows into a defensive asset.
But if Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine is looking for a potential pass-rush specialist from his inside linebacker group, Bolton, a player who flourished in that role at Oklahoma last season, could win a spot with an opportunistic preseason. As in any year, training camp injuries and setbacks could also open a door for an undrafted player like Bolton to find a way on to the 53-man roster.