Inside linebacker is a concern for the Packers again.
It’s the position they rarely seem to take seriously in the draft.
Whereas the Baltimore Ravens drafted Patrick Queen then Malik Harrison in this year’s draft, the Green Bay Packers ignored the position until the fifth round.
A major problem last season, have the Packers done anywhere near enough to fix the need at inside linebacker?
Currently on the roster
The Packers let both Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson walk in free agency, which wasn’t a major surprise. What did come as more of a surprise was that they didn’t go after one of the top free agents like Cory Littleton or Joe Schobert, and then ignored the position in the draft until Day 3. In the fifth round, they selected Kamal Martin.
Green Bay did get good value by signing Christian Kirksey who, if healthy, can start in Mike Pettine’s defense.
Improved from 2019?
That says a lot. The Packers absolutely needed to get better at inside linebacker. Martinez was a solid player but too often made tackles after the ball carrier had already made a good gain. His lack of speed showed up when running sideline-to-sideline and in coverage.
Kirksey could be an upgrade on Martinez but he’s struggled to stay on the field the past two seasons, playing in only nine games due to injury.
If Kirksey misses any time this season, is there a linebacker on the roster ready to start?
It has to be. Kirksey needs to be the solution at the starting job. If he struggles or gets injured, the Packers could have real problems in the middle of the defense.
The development of young players on the roster is going to be crucial. Curtis Bolton will be a player to watch. He impressed in the preseason before tearing his ACL. If he’s fully healthy, he could compete for snaps.
This is a make-or-break season for Oren Burks, a former third-round pick who has dealt with a couple of injuries over the past couple of years. It seemed the coaching staff didn’t trust him last season with Burks only playing six percent of the defensive snaps despite being active for 12 games, according to Pro Football Reference.
Expect to see more dime packages from this defense in 2020. That perhaps says all you need to know about the depth at inside linebacker.