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Cory's Corner: Blake Martinez has earned Packers' starting ILB job

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Cory's Corner: Blake Martinez has earned Packers' starting ILB job

Blake Martinez has been with the starters ever since organized team activities back in May.

The rookie inside linebacker has built quite a portfolio of consistency and chemistry since then with the rest of the defense — which will ultimately seal his fate as the Packers’ leader on that side of the ball.

“We definitely want to give him an opportunity because he has a lot of tools,” said Packers associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss. “He’s very smart, he’s very comfortable and we feel as though he can do the job,”

But then Moss quickly added, “Yeah, you could say that Blake is getting a lot of the reps but I wouldn’t look too far into that, we still have one preseason game and then we’ll just get ready for the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

Moss is a terrible poker player. Martinez will be trotting out on the field with the rest of the defense for the first time come Week 1. Martinez has outshone all the other inside linebackers with an ability to attack the running game and get to the passer and he can even play some pass defense as well.

At least assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley tried to sell it a little more.

“He’s still competing too,” McCurley said. “We want to see what he can do. Whether it be the communication stuff — I’ve seen Jake (Ryan) with the headset, I’ve seen Sam (Barrington) with the headset, I’ve seen Clay (Mathews), I’ve had Nate Palmer, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, that really doesn’t mean anything to me. “

Martinez is about to be the quarterback of the defense and communication, arguably one of the most important aspects of an inside linebacker, isn’t that big of a deal?

Obviously McCurley is just trying to downplay the situation. Inserting a rookie into a position where veterans would have to lean on his leadership can be a dicey proposition. You have proud veterans like Julius Peppers who is in his 15th season, Clay Mathews who’s in his eighth and Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields who are both in their seventh. Telling those four guys what to do is like a high school student telling his principal to go fetch him lunch.

But not for this Stanford linebacker that appears to be the Peyton Manning of inside linebackers thanks to all of the prep work he does.

“It’s been a very good transition for him as far as being out in front of the defense, having to make the calls, having to make the adjustments,” Moss said. “One thing to his credit, I think the players really believe in him and they really trust him and they know that he’s a good football player, he’s a smart football player. So he doesn’t have to go through that trying to prove himself. He can line up or he can get those guys lined up and play ball and everybody gets on the same page and we’re all trying to go in the same direction.”

And that’s all you really want anyway. So the Packers are going to start a rookie at inside linebacker. I was surprised at first, but it makes sense because I’d rather have a smart player that can get someone else in position to make a play if he cannot. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (30) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Hematite's picture

Outside of Martinez and Ryan I don't have much faith in the rest.
Too bad Ryan is injured.

KenEllis's picture

Martinez has looked outstanding and I have hope he is the inside linebacker we've all been waiting for since Desmond Bishop got hurt, but I have a hard time understanding anyone's enthusiasm for Ryan.

He sat behind Nate Palmer (yeah Nate Palmer) most of last season and looked shaky when he finally broke into the lineup.

I think Ryan is on the outside of Martinez & Barrington and dare I say maybe even Joe Thomas and Carl Bradford.

Nick Perry's picture

Martinez has played really well and IMO has earned the spot. He's been "The Man" since May as Cory pointed out and has outplayed anyone else at the position. I mean really, why wouldn't he be the starter?

Actually for the first time in quite some time I'm more confident about what the Packers will have inside. Martinez and Ryan, it's a hell of a lot better than what they had since Bishop was lost. Ryan is back right? He played last week I believe??

Chad Lundberg's picture

Well what do you know, a well constructed article from Jennerjohn. Martinez looks like he's about as good as a fourth round pick you can possibly get. His presence can essentially solve the ILB problem that's plagued the Packers for 3 years now. Guy looks like he's one the smartest players on the whole team.

croatpackfan's picture

I have to rely on you opinion Cory. Yes, it looks like huge honor for young player, but that honor takes some responsibility with it. I think problem might show up if there will be overhelming feeling from Blake. Till today, it looks OK. But, still, he has to play his first snap in real NFL game...
Lets hope Packers find 1st round player in the 4th round of 2016 draft...
All together, I see Packers as very serious competitor for winning SB this season. As Joe Whitt said - team is as good as its bottom half of the roster. I believe Packers has better bottom half of the roster than many teams in NFL...

RCPackerFan's picture

'At least assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley tried to sell it a little more.
“He’s still competing too,” McCurley said.'

What is Martinez competing for? DROY?

Martinez won the starting ILB job. The only question is who will start next to him.

Nick Perry's picture

Nice RC, very nice!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Martinez looks good and indeed won the starting job, but I had hoped to see a jump from Ryan, and competition from Barrington. Martinez looks reasonably deserving, but most of his competition has been injured. Looking forward to watching the 4th preseason game, though it might be hard to tell much.

I gather than Martinez has beaten out Thomas for the coverage ILB.

RCPackerFan's picture

I was also hoping to see a jump from Ryan. Unfortunately he has been hurt.

I am also looking forward to seeing the 4th preseason game. Maybe we will get to see more from Barrington and Ryan.

I wouldn't necessarily say Martinez beat out Thomas for coverage ILB. I think Martinez will be our 3 down ILB, but in Nickel they could replace Ryan or Barrington with Thomas.

L's picture

I wouldn't mind seeing Thomas and Martinez playing together in Nickel formations (on some passing downs) given that Thomas is healthy and on the 53.

RCPackerFan's picture

I agree. I like that idea. With Thomas' added strength he is stout enough to be able to stop the run too.

RCPackerFan's picture

It depends on what you consider as a coverage LB. Nickel for example could be considered coverage defense.

Correct though if Martinez is the lone LB in the Dime then he will have beat out Thomas.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Spot on @Reynoldo (see, we can agree on things, lol)

Not to take anything from Martinez, because I honestly feel we have a real ILB in him, but he got the job pretty easily.

I'm interested in seeing him paired with Ryan. I have mixed opinions with Martinez + Barrington (so far).

EdsLaces's picture

I'm glad we seemed to have snagged a late round gem because I'm not real sure about that 1st rounder of ours..

Spud Rapids's picture

You shouldn't be sure... he hasn't played a regular season game yet and hasn't seen true NFL speed... we have no idea what he is or isn't

Nick Perry's picture

I KNOW it's the Preseason but go look at the Team Defense Stats at NFL.com. The Packers have the #1 Total Defense, #1 Pass Defense, and #2 Scoring Defense.

http://www.nfl.com/stats/team?seasonId=2016&seasonType=PRE&Submit=Go

IMO Martinez has a lot to do with that. What we haven't seen a ton of is the Packers getting eaten alive over the middle of the field by TE's and/or RB's, at least when Blake "DROY" Martinez is on the field!

Right RC!!!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Being ranked highly is better than being ranked last. But we did play Cleveland and SF, both terrible offensive teams, and Oakland, which figures to be fair. But I give Martinez a fair share of the credit, and the tremendous depth on our team. GB is 30th in yards per play, 28th in yards per passing attempt, and 16th in yards/rushing attempt.

RCPackerFan's picture

One thing that impresses me though is that our starters on defense have not played that much. Our 2nd string players have went against opposing teams starting offenses and still looked good.

its hard to get a realistic idea at how good a team is in the preseason since everyone plays vanilla schemes. Also its hard to take a lot out of preseason stats, but you can find good things from it too.

One major thing that Martinez looks like he'll be a big upgrade is the ability to cover TE's and RB's. His speed is a big improvement from what we have had which allows him to play sideline to sideline.
Another thing I noticed with Martinez is he seems to be a really good leader. Seeing him being one of the first guys to congratulate a teammate for a making a great play.

Martinez isn't in any talks for DROY, yet... But it wouldn't surprise me if he was in the discussion at the end of the year.

egbertsouse's picture

He appears to be the best of an average bunch. I'm not a Ryan guy, he reminds me too much of AJ Hawk in his play. On a positive note, none of them are truly awful like in the past few years.

Bearmeat's picture

Looks like TT FINALLY struck gold with a mid round pick. As disappointed as I was to not have grabbed Myles Jack when he was available, this gamble at ILB seems to FINALLY have paid off.

Hope Martinez turns out to be as good as he has looked for many years.

Now, about the DL....

Tarynfor12's picture

Martinez looks to have the tools but he was given more opportunity via default with Barrington coming off the injury slow, Ryan getting injured, Thomas being Thomas etc. I'm not saying he hasn't shown merit but being the assumed started and proving him the right guy will be upon us soon enough. With the lacking at DL, his mettle will be challenged quickly at inside linebacker.

Since '61's picture

Based on what we have seen this preseason it's been obvious to me that Martinez should be one of our starting ILBs. Even if Ryan was not injured, Martinez has looked better than him. The question is who should start next to him? I would say Barrington but I'm not sure of his injury status. Also, we don't know how serious Ryan's injury is. That leaves Thomas and Bradford. Based on his preseason performance I would go with Bradford but we will probably just need to wait and see how the injuries play out over the next week. As for Martinez, all we have is preseason, our own hype and propaganda for now. Reality arrives in 12 days and we will begin to see how much preseason means if anything. Anyone for Martinez and Matthews as our starting ILBs? Between now and Jacksonville I'll be happy with no more injuries. Thanks, Since '61

Oppy's picture

I thought Barrington was the least impressive ILB during this camp. I wonder when he was actually on the field?

Both Thomas and Bradford had excellent camps. Both really surprised me this year.

Christopher Gennaro's picture

while i agree that barrington hasn't look great, his run stopping at least for now give him an edge over the other two. also i just feel barrington give the d an violent edge, i may be wrong just want a couple of games to see. have to give the other two a lot of credit thomas has added weight and is more physical and it looks like bradford has finally turned the corner. either way it looks alot better then past few years.

Oppy's picture

Christopher,

I read that Barrington also shed quite a bit of weight over the last year, which is surprising, because he wasn't a overly-large ILB to begin with.

One issue may be that if Martinez is indeed one of the starting ILBs in base 3-4, and Barrington is the other.. I would have to think that the relatively small Martinez has to be the chase and tackle LB, which would place Barrington in the role of the 'thumper' who is tasked with taking on blockers to make sure Martinez has a clean line to the ball carrier. I'm somewhat concerned with Martinez's tackling to begin with, but I dont think he's big enough to absorb FBs or the occasional guard. That may render Barrington's run stopping moot.

I will agree that I've seen so little of Barrington this camp that anything is possible. I don't know, maybe the Packers have kept Barrington off the field to hide him from scouting. Can't wait till week 1 to start seeing how everything fits together.

Michalske's picture

'61, I'm looking forward to having 4 OLBs on the field with Martinez at ILB in nickel -- Daniels and Guion at DL, Peppers at EE, and Matthews and and Perry (or whichever of McCray/Elliott or Fackrell is the best pass rusher).

This defense could be fun to watch, if Martinez proves the real deal and the DL gels a little.

Since '61's picture

Michalske - I definitely prefer your idea with the 4 OLBs and Martinez at ILB. That gives us the opportunity to put our best players on the field and to wreak some havoc with opposing offenses. Let's see what happens. Thanks, Since '61

Oppy's picture

I like Martinez, but I fear he has become 2016's "Packer Player most over-valued by Packers fans".

My eyes see a young man who has shown a lot of promise. Good, sound play, but nothing "great" or overtly eye-opening. His tackling must improve greatly.

Let's see what we've got. Best of luck to him, I hope he continues to improve and plays at a high level come regular season. Frankly, Bradford has flashed more big-time play at ILB in his limited reps this preseason than anyone else. I'd rather see Bradford lined up next to Martinez in base on opening day than and Ryan or Barrington, and see what shakes out.

lucky953's picture

Compared to what we've had there for the last 5 years? We 've been Terrible at the position. Martinez is smart, quick, physical. I certainly wouldn't ordain him an All-Pro in the making, but he has greatly improved our defensive capabilities. Martinez can play.

Oppy's picture

We're going to see improved play at the ILB position this year by default because we'll have improved NT play in base when Pennel, Guion, or perhaps Price are manning the nose. All three players handle a center and guard better than Raji ever did.

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