As our predictions for the Green Bay Packers’ initial 53-man roster in 2022 continue, we keep moving back through the defense and zero in on the linebacker position. With new blood in the room thanks to a first-round draft pick as well as an All-Pro re-signing, the top of the depth chart should come as no surprise.
However, the players down the roster at this spot will need to be special teams contributors. Last season, two of the top four players and three of the top seven in terms of special teams snaps came from the linebacker group, and a couple of the players in this group should expect to show up near the top of that list once again in 2022. So the question becomes this: who will that be?
For one point of clarification, we considered seventh-round draft pick Tariq Carpenter as a safety for this analysis. However, the Packers’ coaching staff said that he may receive some cross-training at both the safety and linebacker positions, and if he makes the roster, he may also provide some special teams contributions.
Here are the four off-ball linebackers we predict to be on the Packers’ initial 53-man roster.
De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker
In what should come as no surprise, the reigning All-Pro and the first-round rookie get our spots in the starting lineup. Campbell’s big new contract will keep him in a Packers uniform (and atop the depth chart) for the next several years, but now he has a true running mate. Walker’s addition will most likely reduce the Packers’ reliance on single-linebacker looks such as the 5-1 grouping with three down linemen, two edge rushers, and just Campbell playing off the ball.
If nothing else, Walker’s impressive athleticism should give Joe Barry a fun new toy to move around and deploy within the defensive scheme. Hopefully he proves to be more than just a heat-seeking missile, however, and playing with a smart, instinctive veteran like Campbell should give him a chance to develop quickly.
Krys Barnes, Isaiah McDuffie
The considerations at the backup linebacker boil down to two things: can anyone be called on in a pinch to help out in case of an injury to a starter, and can the backups play special teams?
In Barnes, the Packers have a player who can do both. He has been on the field for just over 50% of the defensive snaps in the 29 games he has played the last two seasons and although he tends to look overmatched in pass coverage (passer rating of over 110 allowed in each of his two seasons), his tape shows him to be at least an adequate spot starter. Barnes has also been a consistent member of the punt and kickoff coverage teams.
With a player who can play on defense in a pinch as LB3, the fourth spot can effectively be a special teams-only focus. With two draft picks in McDuffie and Summers likely running ahead of the pack, this decision could come down to whether one can make a splash play or two in training camp. Summers is a great athlete who has yet to put his game together, so we’re going with McDuffie by a narrow margin.
Ty Summers, Caliph Brice, Ellis Brooks, Ray Wilborn
As mentioned above, Summers was the last man cut from this position group, earning a couple of slots on our contributors’ 53s, while Wilborn was the only other player from this group to earn a single vote. Any of these players would likely be a useful member of the practice squad, however.
Stay tuned as we move on to the safety position on Thursday.