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A Leader Needs to Emerge on This Packers Defense

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A Leader Needs to Emerge on This Packers Defense

Integrity, accountability and inspiration are all great qualities that a working leader brings to their team in the business world.  These traits enable leaders to motivate their teammates to rise to any challenge that faces them and conquer adversity.  These three qualities also transfer to the football field where great on-field leaders drive their teammates to perform to the highest of their abilities.  In recent years, have the Packers had a leader like this on their defense?

Most fans would argue that the Packers have lacked a true field general on their defense in recent years since the departure of Charles Woodson after the 2012 season.  Couple that with the thought that Dom Capers did nothing to help promote a true field leader on his units and it is obvious to see that the time has come for a leader to emerge on this defense.   I’m a believer that new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will demand it.

With Morgan Burnett’s departure to join the Steelers, the team will now be looking for a new defensive play-caller heading into the 2018 season.  Burnett took on those duties as a Packer, wearing the communication device to get the signal coming in from the sideline.  With his departure, it will be interesting to see who Pettine sees fit to take on the play-calling duties.  But, that duty isn’t mutually exclusive to being a leader on the field. 

Taking a step back in history to look at some of the most dominant defenses in the NFL shows that each one had a true field leader that was there to motivate and inspire the rest of the squad.  The Ravens had Ray Lewis motivating their dominant squad.  The ’85 Bears had Mike Singletary.  The list can continue on from there with many more examples.  These leaders on the defense play with a “do as I do” mentality and don’t hesitate to hold their peers accountable for their mistakes.  They play with heart and understand that the practice field and the film room are where winning attitudes start.  Does this type of leader sit on the Packers roster right now?

Let’s take a look at some of the current players on the Packers roster and rate their criteria for being a leader on the field.  Under the thought that “leaders are made, not born”, a player doesn’t need to have shown all the signs of being a leader up to this point in his career to be a successful future leader on the team.  A lot of leadership skills are honed over time, but some signs of great leadership qualities should have shown themselves up to this point in their career.

Mike Daniels – the leader in the clubhouse for the role of field general is none other than “Mr. Piss in their Cheerios” himself.  Daniels has shown over time that he can be vocal about his own performance and his team’s performance to call it like he sees it.  The defensive tackle also doesn’t back down from sticking up for his teammates on the field of battle.  Daniels’ blood, sweat and tears are definitely left on the field after each and every game and his can’t be stopped attitude and motor are plenty motivational to his peer.  But, are his verbal rampages a little too much to be inspirational to his teammates?  I don’t think so, but an important trait of almost any great leader is the ability to get teammates to follow in their footsteps.  I think Mike has the ability to do this moving forward. 

Clay Matthews – even through the years of his extremely high-level play, Clay was just never the on-field leader that motivated his teammates.  He has always gone about his business in a quiet demeanor.  He’s not a “rah-rah” guy on the sidelines either.   But the 10-year veteran does now have experience on his side and if Matthews can find a spark to light a fire under his teammate’s rear ends, would they follow him?

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – what started as extremely positive rookie and second-year campaigns for the young safety has ended in a downward slide the last two years.  Ha Ha will enter the 2018 season as one of the veterans on this Packers defense, particularly in the defensive backfield.  If he can put the 2017 season in the past, where questions even arose about his effort on the field, and get back to his old ways, there is no doubt that he can become a leader on this defense.  Safeties are in an excellent position on the field to become that true field general and the opportunity is there for Ha Ha to seize this opportunity in 2018.

The Young Guard – sometimes a motivating leader rises the ranks early in their career and maybe the next on-field leader for the Packers is about to emerge.  Could Kenny Clark or Blake Martinez rise up into a role like this?  Both have let their play on the field speak for itself in their young careers.  Or how about a rookie like Kevin King or Josh Jones, who both appear to be headed for much bigger roles for the coming season.  The latter two may have a tougher time as play on the field does dictate the emergence of a field leader and both King and Jones have a lot to prove yet.

It’s hard to look at the names above and find a name leaping out at you for who could assume the role as the field general for the Packers defense.  Nick Perry was not mentioned for consideration due to his lack of consistency and his quiet demeanor.  Mo Wilkerson was not mentioned either.  Though it does rarely happen, it is difficult for a new player to step onto a team and become an instant leader. But, just maybe his experience working under Mike Pettine could foster that a lot quicker.

Any way you slice it, the Packers defense has been and still remains desperate for a true leader to emerge.  If Mike Pettine comes as advertised, I believe that he will do all that is possible to motivate a new on-field leader or two to emerge in the defense moving forward.  Who that will be remains to be seen.


Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (38) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

Blake Martinez made a huge jump last season and tied for the lead in the NFL for tackles. I like Martinez better than most but I think he's here to stay on this defense and could be a leader on the field.

The TKstinator's picture


EdsLaces's picture


worztik's picture

Just farted...

stockholder's picture

So you saw Luke Wilson signed with the lions 1 yr. 2.5 mi. or was it Latimer for a mil. or was it Jenkins cheap. Or was it Gute is listening to TT again. Put a match down there.

Duke Divine's picture

Martinez is going to have 200 tackles with that Dline in front of him eating up blockers...

HankScorpio's picture

Martinez is still limited in the pass game. If Roquan Smith or Trumaine Edmunds falls to 14, I can envision Martinez becoming a role/situational player. Both of them would seem to be 'to go to pass up'. Then the base nickel front six is: Perry, Daniels, Clark, Wilkinson, Matthews and Smith/Edmunds. Martinez steps on the field in short yardage/goalline or to give Matthew or Smith/Edmunds a breather.

Don't get me wrong, I like Martinez. He's a solid player. But he's not spectacular. The Packers have been missing a dynamic sideline to sideline playmaking LB that can function at a high level in pass coverage for a very long time. That's a weapon they could sorely use. That's not Martinez.

fthisJack's picture

Smith and Martinez could be on the field together with Mathews and Perry on the edge. our defense would improve dramatically by taking the middle of the field away for the first time in forever.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I think he has the fire for it. I just hope he's on the field enough and not on the sideline too much because of sub packages.

The TKstinator's picture

Cousins Sub packages>Subway Sub packages

Finwiz's picture

Do ya think?

Revelations here on CHTV.

Lare's picture

I agree, the logical one in my opinion is Blake Martinez. He doesn't have a huge "rah-rah" presence on the field, but he's intelligent, a hard worker, elevated his play and is a consistent performer- all traits that are respected by his team-mates. He's also already calling the defensive plays on the field.

In the defensive backfield the obvious ones would be House or Williams if they're signed.

Savage57's picture

Kind of like the jewelry commercials, all the announcers will be saying, "he went to Stanford."

RCPackerFan's picture

Naturally, the one position that has typically been the leader or QB of the defense is the ILB. Blake Martinez should be that guy.
Last year his play took a huge leap. Now if he can become the vocal leader of the defense, that could help turn the defense around.

One note on Clinton-Dix. He got better each of his first 3 years and regressed last year. He had his pro bowl year in year 3.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I can see how it would be hard to stay motivated playing that scheme and having a offense minis Rodgers. I'm betting Haha will learn from this, or Pettine will teach him.

fthisJack's picture

HAHA better come to play this year or he won't be back. i'd love to get James back there with him to light a fire under his aZZ!

HankScorpio's picture

The search for leadership on the defense is a wide open field. This is a new defense for everyone but Mo Wilkinson. I have no idea who will emerge. Maybe that guy is not yet on the roster.

Turophile's picture

I agree. Daniels is already a leader type, so he doesn't fit the bill of a new leader.

What a leader needs before anything else, is good play on the field. Without that you don't have the starting requirement of respect on the field.

Candidates like Martinez, Clark, King, have the highest chance of success, but there are also less likely candidates, like Biegel and Montravius Adams, who can overcome their injured first year and blossom in year two.

gr7070's picture

A leader would be nice and all, but what they really need is just more talent. It really is that simple.

For some reason we search for the romantic story in everything, when the simple answer is just that, the answer simply.

Razer's picture

Totally agree. A defense with more talent is the first order of business. The second and third is 'everybody know and do their job'. If the author is using "leader" as "playmaker" then yes we need more leaders on this defense.

TC026's picture

Move Mathews to the middle and there is your new field general.

Lare's picture

I don't know, as poor as he is at flying a drone I doubt he'd get the respect of his teammates.

TC026's picture

At least he hit something.

4thand1's picture

Other than an Daniels this team doesn't have an outspoken leader. AR makes a few soft spoken comments now and then and CMIII doesn't say boo. Brady isn't afraid to speak his mind he's earned it, AR has earned it too IMO. Guys like Randall say shit and boom, they're gone. Woodson was the last true vocal leader we had and look at the results, we won it all. Someone needs to step to the plate and lite a fire under someones ass. Maybe this all falls on the head coach, keep your mouth shut and let me run the team.

fthisJack's picture

i'm praying James falls to 14 as everything i read about him suggests he is leader material.

Community Guy's picture

McCarthy (and Pettine) need to allow a leader to emerge.. with the current folks, it could be a D-line guy.. the coaches can try to choose the leader, but true leadership is a grassroots phenomena.

lou's picture

The leader of the defense needs to be the new DC and his extension is the one he selects as the play caller on the field, they have to buy into his philosophy as teams have done with Dick LeBeau for example. Yes it is great if you have a veteran leader but lets not forget winning consistently all comes down to as Belichick says, "just doing your job". Who is the Pat's defensive "leader", I bet no one can name him because of the number of changes each year in personnel and it does not matter because all 11 defensive players are only concerned with "doing their job".

Since '61's picture

Myself and others here have posted for years that this defense needs a leader in the field. To date no one has stepped up.
First there aren't any Nitschkes or Reggie Whites on this team. Do we have anyone currently on the defense that can emerge into a leader? I think it's unlikely. Maybe Clark in another season or two.
The field leader needs to be a consistent playmaker and a difference maker, specifically at key points in a game or season. Preferably, he should be a 3 down player.
Hopefully, Pettine will create an atmosphere that allows a leader(s) to emerge. Start with an aggressive, nasty attitude supported with a consistent pass rush, solid tackling and effective coverage technique in the secondary. Then we need better players especially at OLB, ILB and CB. As the defense improves a leader may emerge from the group. Time will tell. Thanks, Since '61

lou's picture

Agree Since 61", leaders are made not born. I love Daniels "take no prisoner" attitude but then he goes and gets a 15 yard roughing penalty at turning points in games that have really cost the team you just shake your head.. As Lombardi said, the game is about "controlled violence". In reference to leaders being made, Woodson is a perfect example, he came in with Hall of Fame talent but was aloof (Thompson made the only offer for him) but look how he eventually became the leader of a Super Bowl winner on his side of the ball, I never thought I would see a CB play as well as Herb Adderley, but he did.

Since '61's picture

Lou I agree with most of your post. However, Adderly was a better tackler than Woodson and Adderley was a true shutdown corner in that QBs stopped throwing to his side of the field. Woodson was a great player as well but QBs continued to throw his way. Woodson could also play safety and slot CB, a position which did not exist in Adderley's time.
In any case I wish we had one or both of them in our secondary now or at least a player like either one of them. Thanks, Since '61

lou's picture

Since 61" agree unless the WR was Gary Collin's of the Brown's they threw to the other side (Jeter's) not Adderley's. For some reason Collin's gave him fits if you recall. Guess what we both missed on these two Hall of Famer's, both were terrific kick returners as well and Adderley was a kick blocking threat as well, we were so lucky to have that much talent in the secondary.

stockholder's picture

That's been the problem with the defense. There is no leader. Oh they have unit leaders like Daniels, Mathews,Dix. When Mathews tried to lead the defense, it was like people sat back and watched. ( And expected him to do it all. ) I think because a player is paid more money than others, their expected to be a do it all. Then you have players who's only preference is "Show me the money." The packers ILB is the lead position! We never had a Troy Polamalu. And if we thought we had that player in the secondary, it was still unit pride. Let's get that guy. Regardless who's in front. Trade your Martinez or Ryan if they can't be that person. Are they? No their Lunch box guys. My hopes are we get R. Smith. Speed and a guy that will lead. Yes Edmunds would be great. But a natural ILB moves quicker, and has more instinct. Why did chicago move Urlacker? Speed ,Tackling, Coverage ability. We don't have the coverage speed with Martinez and Ryan. Thomas couldn't tackle. It's still a hole and will be until we get our leader there.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Excellent article.

I think Daniels is the emotional leader, while Martinez is the strategic leader.

Nothing wrong with that.

Colin_C's picture

Derwin James could definitely be that guy if we're lucky enough to grab him. Everything I've read says without a doubt he's a natural leader on and off the field. Locker room alpha through and through.

As for who we have, HHCD is really respected by his teammates, even if his play hasn't been spectacular. If he can improve his game under Pettine, I think others will follow his lead.

PETER MAIZ's picture

From all the commentary, we seem to be leaderless but this situation won't be permanent. First, let's see if Pettine can improve the defense. As to a leader, let's take a deep breath before we exhale.

flackcatcher's picture

Leader? (SIGH.......) We all know it's off season Ryan. So just put this article down to 'I got nothing ' today. Do us fans a favor, come back to this at mid season and ask the question again. It really is a good question about a teams mind set and direction. But it is way too early for this.

Tundraboy's picture

Leaders most often emerge when you least expect it, but it always start with great play,day in day out. No sense expecting who should emerge, we will find out soon enough. I'm excited enough with the coaching change. Very strange year going in, one where I expect a bigger improvement from the D than the O. I think Pettine will get a lot more out of the talent we have. A lot. On Offense I am quietly excited with what Philbin will bring in, but I worry that MM will stifle him before he let's him take full control of play calling on game day.

DD's picture

You're all wrong. Leadership, fire, and inspiration first comes from the head coach. Think MM inspires anyone? Not really. It's our achilles tendon, in telling you that. 12th year coming of stale motivation. Ever see him gathering his troops on the sideline? Any coach doing that except Rodgers QB coach. See units getting together to inspire each other with the coach? I've been to games and haven't seen much of this. They go to the sideline and sit mute on the bench! No one pumps each other or anyone else. Truth! Hoping some of the coaches will gather the players and inspire them even more.

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