Packers 2020 roster preview: Christian Kirksey replaces Blake Martinez

The Packers need Christian Kirksey to stay healthy.

Here at Lombardi Ave, we have put together a series of roster previews on the site for the 2020-2021 NFL season, and this one may be one of the most intriguing: new Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Christian Kirksey.

The former Cleveland Brown will be joining Mike Pettine’s defense, and many Packers fans expect him to make an immediate impact as he fills the role of Blake Martinez, who joined the New York Giants in the offseason. Martinez was a solid run-stopper who left a lot to be desired in coverage, and Packers fans are hoping that Kirksey can not only fill Martinez’s void but also do some of the things he couldn’t for the Green and Gold.

For starters, Kirksey is a better athlete. After watching his film, it is clear that he can shoot gaps and play the run at least as well as Martinez, if not better. His football IQ is high and he can adjust quickly to different run schemes and blocking schemes. He is an aggressive linebacker who can get into the backfield and make big plays, and also make tackles in the open field.

Based on this, you’re probably thinking, “yeah, this guy is great, we’re set,” but there’s a knock to Kirksey that is irrelevant to what he gives the Packers on the field: his health.

Kirksey played limited snaps in each of the past two seasons and has struggled to remain healthy. While he is still only 28 years old, there is definitely reason to be concerned that he may not be able to sustain a full season for the Pack. And that is a very unsettling reality for Packers fans when you look at the depth chart at inside linebacker.

This may be the year that Oren Burks begins to play at a higher level, but we just have not seen that thus far in his career. Linebacker Ty Summers made just two solo tackles in his rookie year last season and rarely saw the field. Rookie fifth-round draft pick Kamal Martin out of Minnesota is not battle-tested in the NFL yet, and most likely won’t be ready to play significant snaps this season.

With all of this in mind, it’s obvious that Kirksey’s health is a huge question mark for Green Bay. If he can stay on the field, he should be a valuable member of a much improved Packers defense, but if he goes down at some point, the Packers could be in trouble at inside linebacker. Personally, I’m excited to see him in a Packers uniform, and think he will be a great addition to the unit. I just hope he’s healthy come January when the Packers desperately need him.

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