Inside Linebacker (5)
In: De’Vondre Campbell, Krys Barnes, Oren Burks, Ty Summers, Kamal Martin
Out: Isaiah McDuffie, Ray Wilborn, De’Jon Harris
This is a position group I wouldn’t have guessed was capable of producing five players worth keeping on the 53, but growth from a few players has forced us to re-evaluate. De’Vondre Campbell was brought in on a free-agent deal to do what he’s always done, start. He’s not going to be a star by any means, but even if he gives Green Bay average play in the middle, that’s more than the Packers have gotten in recent years. He’ll be a welcome addition no doubt.
Krys Barnes is the Packers’ best chance at having an above-average inside linebacker on the roster. Barnes made the team as a UDFA a year ago and showed some real promise when he was healthy. Slimmed down in year two and with job stability, he should show us exactly what he’s capable of. Should he pan out, the Packers could finally have a long-term solution at middle linebacker – who is cost effective on top of it.
This is where I’m going to lump Oren Burks and Ty Summers together. Both players are core special teams players and do in fact provide something in that facet of the game. The question was going to be what can they provide should they be forced into snaps on defense. I was among the crowd that had all but written Burks off, and by all accounts he’s forced his way onto the two deep – showing actual progress as a player.
It was just a pre-season game, but Burks looked explosive at times getting downhill to make tackles. It appeared as though he was playing on instinct and using his natural athleticism. If the Packers get this version of Burks, he’s worth an extended look.
As for Summers, he’s a great athlete who plays a little too stiff to develop into much more than he is. I don’t think he can offer you more than a few passable snaps on defense if you’re desperate, but you could certainly do worse.
Kamal Martin has upside, that is undeniable. However, there have not been too many positive reports coming out of camp. Martin has been given third-team reps at inside linebacker, and the team even experimented with him at outside linebacker. The fact he was a draft pick just last season, and that there are some strong tools to work with, suggest he’ll make the team.
He’s going to need to bring something to the table on special teams and prove his worth if the team is going to invest its time developing him for the future.