When the Green Bay Packers signed De’Vondre Campbell on June 9, the move very much flew under the radar.
The Packers had all but neglected the inside linebacker position for years and this was just their latest half-hearted attempt to fill the position after Christian Kirksey didn’t pan out last year. It was the usual summer signing that many didn’t pay much mind to.
After five games this season, people are now paying much more attention to Campbell.
Campbell has not only contributed but has been a standout on the Green Bay’s defense. He made what should have been the game-clinching interception in Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals (special teams struck again, as we know) but he’s been on point all year.
He’s been around the ball all year and has been a sound tackler, something the Packers have notoriously struggled with for years. He’s also Pro Football Focus’ second-highest rated run defender among linebackers. To say he’s been a godsend to Green Bay’s run defense is an understatement.
More importantly, he’s showing the team what a quality inside linebacker can do. His presence has allowed Preston Smith to go back to rushing the passer and helped a thin defensive line in the run game. He’s dependable in coverage. He’s everything the Packers haven’t had at the spot in a long, long time.
If Jaylon Smith is as advertised and can hold up the rest of the season, the Packers should have plenty of options in terms of pass rush and coverage in the middle of the defense.
It feels weird even writing that, and that a June signing triggered it makes it even more incredible.
The defense is still finding its way (and is beat up) under Joe Barry but Campbell has provided a consistent piece the Packers can build around while they wait for their best pass rusher and cornerback to get healthy. Suddenly a healthy Packers defense looks much better than early returns showed and a big of that is due to Campbell.
Aaron Rodgers says what we all know and sings the praises of the personnel department. We won’t try and read between the lines on this one but that Campbell has won Rodgers’ respect so quickly speaks volumes.
While Campbell has been a bright spot, there’s still much work to be done on defense. 13 consecutive touchdowns allowed in the red zone is a major concern. The question is what is the cause? Pointing fingers at Barry is the easy out, but some players haven’t even been close. Communication issues perhaps?
There were some calls on social media Sunday for a kicker competition in Green Bay but Mason Crosby had made almost 30 consecutive field goals heading into Sunday. Plus the blocked kick that was called back against Pittsburgh and the near-block on the game winner in San Francisco point to issues larger than the kicker. Apparently Matt LaFleur agrees.
I can’t believe this is a world record. In Wisconsin we usually just call this “Friday night.”