If Fackrell was my favorite early-season rookie, Martinez was the headliner through the entire run to this point.
He definitely has deficiencies which can be and are exploited (his coverage has been the worst among Green Bay’s inside linebackers in 2016), but he’s made up for that with his run defense prowess (led all rookies in PFF’s run defense grades for most of the year; among the top 20 in the grade for all players at his position) and overall persistent effort.
Recently though, he came down with a knee injury, swiping him off the field for the past few games. Green Bay did end up winning these past three contests without him, but having him available would be a solid improvement for the closing stretch of the year.
The depth at the inside linebacker spot has been in disarray for about a month now; Jake Ryan just returned last week after missing three games himself, Joe Thomas has dropped off considerably from his strong early-season performance as he’s seen a greater share of snaps, and Carl Bradford was so atrocious in his few snaps that he could barely even see the field despite those injuries above him.
Martinez has been listed as questionable recently, so he seems close to a return. He should hopefully be able to come back in time for the final three games — and they’ll need him. Burnett did fine in his time as a pseudo-linebacker against Seattle, but having him play that role weakens the safety spot while having one of Green Bay’s best contributors play out of position. Also, while the secondary and pass rush have improved considerably in the current three-game winning streak, whoever is playing inside needs to be ready to take on a bigger burden.
When he’s healthy, Martinez is the best of the group, mainly due to his ability to provide a major boost to the run defense. Even with his lacking coverage skills, making the opposition have only one option of attack can help out both him and his team to a positive degree.
The games against Chicago and Minnesota bring in offenses which do not tend to do efficiently exploit opposing pass defenses. That could help lessen the negative effects that come with Martinez’s current skills.
Big games from him in the coming weeks could prove to be the needed difference for the Packers.