Packers roster breakdown: Analyzing defense position by position

Green Bay Packers, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Green Bay Packers, Za'Darius Smith
Green Bay Packers, Za’Darius Smith (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Outside linebackers (6)

Active: Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Jonathan Garvin, Chauncey Rivers

PS: Tipa Galeai

The Packers are going to rotate Za’Darius Smith/Preston Smith/Rashan Gary for the most part. This should be a promising pass rush, especially with the emergence of third-year Gary. All three players should earn starter-level snaps and have a chance to be game-changers on the defense.

Jonathan Garvin/Chauncey Rivers are going to primarily be special teams players, but could be thrust into a bigger role at a moment’s notice. Tipa Galeai is a promising edge rusher who needs to add some weight if he’s going to crack the 53 as more than a special teams player.

Inside linebackers (6)

Active: De’Vondre Campbell, Krys Barnes, Oren Burks, Ty Summers, Isaiah McDuffie

PS: Ray Wilborn

Inside linebacker has long been an afterthought in the past two regimes. And while I’d like to tell you things are going to be different, I’m not 100 percent sure I believe in all the hype.

Your starting inside linebackers are De’Vondre Campbell and Krys Barnes. Campbell was signed as a free agent and stepped right into the starting role, which is exactly what he’s been in his career — a starter. He’s nothing more than adequate, but given what the Packers have run out at the position in recent years, adequate is an upgrade.

Krys Barnes was an UDFA just a season ago, and is a potential bright spot at the position. Barnes showed some promise and is a good athlete, but was plagued by injuries as a rookie. Barnes could be a young, cheap option at inside linebacker for years to come, so here’s to hoping he takes the next step.

Oren Burks/Ty Summers/Isaiah McDuffie are all athletic players whose primary role is going to be on special teams. Burks did show some promise in the preseason as a pass rusher, so it’s possible he gets some snaps on defense. McDuffie looked great in the preseason finale and could earn his way onto the field at some point as well.

Ray Wilborn was stashed on the practice squad and I think he’s going to get elevated at some point. He’s arguably one of the team’s best linebackers in coverage so the added time on the practice squad will only help in his development.

Overall, I don’t love this position group. It’s better than it was a year ago, but that’s not saying much. Hopefully the team hits on one of its young linebackers and they can finally have a mainstay at the position.