Justis Mosqueda and I have preached on the Acme Packing Company’s podcast feed that Campbell has more than earned a Pro Bowl vote from Packers fans everywhere. His 48 total tackles are good for fifth in the NFL, while he has also picked up a pair of interceptions and three pass breakups through five games.
Advanced metrics line up with what fans are seeing on the field. Of all linebackers to play at least 100 snaps this year, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) has Campbell as the fourth highest-graded linebacker in the league, and the best in the NFC ahead of players like Demario Davis, Eric Kendricks and Shaq Thompson.
General manager Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the Packers pro personnel department deserve a ton of credit for bringing in Campbell off the street. The 28-year-old was still available in June, when the Packers were able to sign him on a one-year, $2 million deal.
Campbell’s impact is being felt on a weekly basis, and even Aaron Rodgers has publicly praised the veteran linebacker. His versatility to make plays against both the run and the pass has made him an impact player, and Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals showed the kind of impact he can have on the defense.
What stands out immediately on tape is how effortlessly Campbell moves in space. At 6’3” and 232 pounds, Campbell’s footwork and lateral agility allow him to change directions quickly, something that helps him stick to his assignments in coverage.
Pass didn't go his way, but look at that change-of-direction ability from De'Vondre Campbell here.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 12, 2021
Really helps him out in coverage. pic.twitter.com/0uvZKuGmdF
Opposing quarterbacks have targeted Campbell 27 times this season, according to Pro Football Reference. On those targets, Campbell has only allowed 17 completions for 96 yards, or just 3.6 yards per target. Quarterbacks are only posting a 50.8 passer rating when throwing his way.
Coaches love to talk about players being in the right place at the right time with defenders in coverage, and Campbell seems to have the instincts to make him a big-time asset in that phase of the game. His interception in overtime was another example of those instincts showing up.
A communication breakdown between Joe Burrow and Tyler Body on the opening play of overtime led to a poor throw by the former No. 1 overall pick. With no one occupying Campbell’s zone, he read the quarterback’s eyes and saw where Burrow wanted to throw, quickly covering space and jumping the throw as if it was intended for him.
Campbell takes advantage of miscommunication between Burrow and Boyd on the option route.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 12, 2021
DB has outside leverage on Boyd, so Burrow is probably thinking he'll cut inside.
Campbell reads Burrow's eyes and breaks, making what could have been a game-sealing INT pic.twitter.com/YRjRucSb4I
The play very well could have secured the win for Green Bay, but on a day where kickers were struggling, it ended up resulting in zero points for the Packers. Still, it was another great example of the awareness and post-snap processing Campbell brings to the defense.
Campbell is more than capable of making plays in space after the catch, too. His sizable frame and aggressive mentality allow him to consistently engulf ball carriers and get them to the ground. In fact, he has only logged one missed tackle so far this season, giving him a career-low missed tackle percentage of 2.0 percent.
The play below is a good example of how Campbell limits yards after the catch by being such a reliable tackler in space. It also shows off his movement skills once again as he side-steps a blocker to make the play.
Like the way Campbell side-steps a blocker and then makes such a clean tackle.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 12, 2021
The man rarely whiffs on tackles. He just engulfs the ball carrier. pic.twitter.com/i4PN6rSQgd
The 28-year-old linebacker is also an asset against the run. His NFL experience has helped him processing what’s happening in front of him quickly, making the right reads and trusting his eyes in order to fill rushing lanes and meet the ball carrier.
The All-22 clip below is the perfect angle to show how Campbell diagnoses his “key”, or player he needs to read, before making a play. Campbell ignores the motion and instead focuses on the tight end on the far right side of the screen. As the tight end pulls across the line, Campbell follows him and feels out where the rushing lane is developing before attacking downhill and meeting Samaje Perine near the line of scrimmage for a minimal gain.
Another nice play from De'Vondre Campbell.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 12, 2021
Reads his key (the pulling TE), flows that way despite the misdirection, then meets the RB in the lane with authority. pic.twitter.com/2Q15ocJ3Qu
With the versatility that Campbell is bringing, defensive coordinator Joe Barry is able to get more creative with his play calling. The Packers are even starting to find ways to utilize Campbell as a blitzer, with one play, in particular, to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Barry was able to draw up a blitz concept that left Campbell as a free rusher on Sunday. With Rashan Gary hovering around the left guard and center, he attacked the center while Campbell looped around him on a stunt. The concept screwed up Cincinnati’s protection and left Campbell free to get to Burrow.
I like this blitz concept from Joe Barry.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 12, 2021
Gary hovering between guard and center. Attacks the center and Campbell loops around as a free rusher.
Didn't get there in time on this play, but I think there's potential with this. pic.twitter.com/ERmaajHIUm
Unfortunately, the quick-pass play dialed up by the Bengals was a little too fast to develop for the blitz to get home. That shouldn’t discourage Barry or Campbell, though, because this concept looks like it has some real promise.
There are still 12 more games that need to be played, but if Campbell can continue to play at this level for the rest of the season, then there’s no reason he won’t be a Pro Bowl linebacker at the end of the year.