Packers: What to expect at inside linebacker in 2022 season

Green Bay Packers, De'Vondre CampbellMJS-Devondre Campbell
Green Bay Packers, De'Vondre CampbellMJS-Devondre Campbell /

The Green Bay Packers have a top-10 defense.

That is how they ended the season statistically. They have a strong defensive backfield led by All-Pro CB Jaire Alexander. After a solid draft and quick dip into free agency, they have an even deeper defensive line.

But maybe the quiet reason for why this defense was so good last season, and why it will be even better in 2022, is the ILB room.

The Packers haven’t had a solid inside linebacking group since the days of Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk. But defensive coordinator Joe Barry has himself something special in the middle of his defense.

De’Vondre Campbell — excuse me — first-team All-Pro De’Vondre Campbell, single-handedly changed the entire scope of Green Bay’s defense last year.

After being scooped up by the Packers last summer on a small one-year deal, he was the only defensive player in the league to record 140+ tackles, 5+ passes defensed, 2+ sacks, 2+ interceptions, and multiple forced fumbles.

He was an absolute machine during his career year.

Third-year Krys Barnes started next to Campbell last season. The former UCLA Bruin set career-highs in games played, total tackles, passes defensed, and fumble recoveries. All you can do as a professional football player is take a step each season. How can you improve?

Barnes did that in multiple ways. His starting experience last season will be important for this season because he, like Campbell, is going to help this next great, young LB come along.

Georgia’s Quay Walker was the name that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called at pick 22 of Round 1 in April’s draft. The Packers were the owners of that draft selection.

Let’s just say that defensive coordinator Joe Barry has got himself another elite football player on his defense.

Walker had a faster short shuttle and three-cone time at the NFL Combine than his old teammate turned new teammate, Packers CB Eric Stokes, who also came from Georgia. Let that sink in. Stokes has 4.2 speed.

Walker is one of the fastest sideline-to-sideline linebackers in the league, and he hasn’t played a down yet. He led the national-champion Georgia Bulldogs in tackles with 77.

The Bulldogs had the best defense in America in 2021. In the National Championship Game vs. Alabama, Walker led the team in tackles. The Packers have themselves an elite athlete and big-time producer in their first-round pick.

Behind those three guys sit fourth-year Ty Summers and second-year Isaiah McDuffie, who both should be on the squad come September.

Summers obviously has more experience but plays predominantly on special teams, as does McDuffie.

There is one more unique player that the Packers might throw in the mix at ILB.

Seventh-round pick Tariq Carpenter played both safety and linebacker at Georgia Tech. He is a hybrid. He can play both positions. He stands at 6-3 and weighs 250 lbs but runs a 4.5. He plays fast like a safety but hits like a linebacker.

The Packers will certainly use him on special teams, but Carpenter can make strides in the middle of the defense too.

Joe Barry has a solid trio of linebackers in Campbell, Barnes, and Walker. It appears as though Walker could be starting alongside Campbell Week 1 with Barnes rotating in and out.

Summers, McDuffie, and Carpenter will help each other improve because they are competing with each other too. Matt LaFleur always preaches about competition and how it can help any team.

This ILB room should only benefit from it. Regardless, this is one of the better ILB groups the Packers have had in recent memory. Possibly the best in nearly 15 years.

It’s one of the biggest reasons why the Packers could have a top-five defense this fall.