Acme Packing Company continues the examination of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 roster. Each day over the next two weeks, we will break down a different position on the roster with examinations of the players on the 53-man roster in 2016, the contributions of new additions and players who signed new contracts, and players who have contracts expiring this offseason.
Continuing the review of the linebacking corps, we review the young inside linebackers. There are no players at this position who have been here more than two years. It is a young group that played about at their expectations, given their youth and inexperience, though without any spectacular play.
Starters: Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez
Second year player Jake Ryan led the group. Ryan finished third on the team in solo tackles (as both starting safeties had more), but he was second in total tackles. Ryan has not shown much in blitzing ability. In 28 games over two years he has yet to register his first sack. Ryan improved in coverage from 2015, having three passes defensed (compared to none last year). Ryan also made more tackles at and around the line of scrimmage, including eight tackles for loss (TFL). Martinez had a nice start to his first year, though he missed time with injury. He showed skill in the passing game by registering four passes defended and one interception in the 13 games he played and nine starts. Martinez managed the only sack secured by an inside linebacker.
Both Martinez and Ryan are solid tacklers. They make all the average plays. Both are NFL caliber players though neither one has created any sort of major impact play to this point. Martinez was in his rookie campaign so both starters are very young and have a chance to make strides over the next few years. Still, as far as 2016 goes, these were average players.
Backup: Joe Thomas
Thomas saw the field mostly in passing situations before taking on more of a starting role over Martinez midway through the season. Among inside linebackers, Thomas led the team in passes defensed (5). Thomas also had an interception and the only fumble recovery among the group. Despite starting the season as a sub package player, Thomas actually led all linebackers in snaps played. Thomas was on the field for just over 60% of the defensive snaps this season. He was on the field in sub packages and backed up both starters.
Third String: Jordan Tripp
Tripp was signed late in the season and had some snaps on special teams. The Packers are his fourth team in three seasons. In that time he has made a single start and registered eight total tackles. His is the most seasoned veteran in this corps.
Position Grade: C
The general point is this is a young group that made all the average plays. There were not many spectacular, game changing plays. On the other hand, there were not the glaring weaknesses that would make them a failure. The top three inside linebackers are NFL-caliber linebackers, but none possesses the talents (currently at least) to make them a desirable group. As this is solely a review of the 2016 season and not a projection, the grade reflects a group that meets expectations and seldom exceeded them.