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Film Review: How Does Jake Ryan's Injury Affect Green Bay?

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Film Review: How Does Jake Ryan's Injury Affect Green Bay?

As you know by now, the official news is out and of course Jake Ryan has been lost for the season to a torn ACL. Ryan was coming off his best season as a Packer, finishing the season with 50 tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble in 15 total games.

What I wanted to take a look at today is exactly what Green Bay will be missing with the loss of Jake Ryan, and how his absence ultimately affects the Packers.

First and foremost, what I’m about to share here isn’t going to shock you. Jake Ryan was primarily a two-down linebacker for a reason. Ryan was at his best as a run stuffing inside linebacker who also was fairly solid when used on inside blitzes. Where Ryan struggled was in the passing game, specifically against play action.

Coming out of college, Ryan actually tested pretty well as an inside linebacker and there was some hope that he’d be able to function as an every down linebacker in the NFL. His 4.65—40 yard dash time was certainly nothing to overlook, and he tested above average in the vertical, broad jump, shuttle, and 3-cone tests. His overall relative athletic score put him within the top 22% of NFL linebackers in terms of overall athleticism. Unfortunately that never really translated to the field.

Without adding insult to injury, Jake Ryan had peaked as an NFL inside linebacker. He was a replacement level player without a very high ceiling. He was a sure tackler on run downs but never made any major impact either positively or negatively on the game as a whole. Statistically the highlight of his career were his three passes defended in 2016. He’s had one sack, one forced fumble and no interceptions in 48 regular season and playoff games. The NFL is about playmakers and Ryan wasn’t one.

Ross Uglem put it best this week on the Pack-A-Day podcast when he said, “Jake Ryan & Kentrell Brice will not be the difference between a successful Pettine defense and an unsuccessful one.” This is a league that is predicated on passing the football and Jake Ryan wasn’t going to help in any significant way in that regards. Even in practice this week Jimmy Graham was able to easily work over Jake Ryan with little to no resistance. Going back and watching the tape you see numerous times where Ryan wasn’t able to hold up in pass coverage against bigger, faster tight ends. When play action was added it was even worse.

This isn’t to say that Jake Ryan won’t be missed. He was one of the top 53 players on the roster, and the season is a war of attrition. Losing one of those top 53 players to injury before the first preseason game is brutal. It leaves the Packers incredibly thin at the inside linebacker position. In fact Blake Martinez is the only current true inside linebacker on the team who has ever even taken a snap in the NFL. Ahmad Thomas, Greer Martini, Marcus Porter, Oren Burks, and Naashon Hughes are all undrafted players with no experience in regular season action.

While Green Bay may be able to overcome Jake Ryan’s injury, what happens if Blake Martinez or Oren Burks get hurt? Maybe the difference between Jake Ryan and Oren Burks isn’t that great, but the Packers are now an injury away from Oren Burks and (insert your favorite undrafted linebacker here) from starting at linebacker on base downs. And yes, Clay Matthews could play some inside, but that hurts the edge rusher and outside linebacker depth. It can all begin to domino at a very rapid pace.

The loss of Jake Ryan will also show up huge on special teams. Ryan played on almost 50% of special teams snaps a season ago, and two of the four players that played more than him (Joe Thomas and Jeff Janis) are no longer on the team.

Green Bay can quite easily plug and play a linebacker on run downs for Jake Ryan without a significant drop off in production. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are two of the best outside linebackers at setting the edge and funneling plays inside, and Ryan’s replacement will be able to play behind a rotation of Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Muhammad Wilkerson, Dean Lowry and Montravius Adams; one of the true areas of strength on this Packers’ team. Even HaHa Clinton-Dix, who has had his struggles recently, will be an asset to whoever fills in for Ryan because he’s a very sure tackler and run defender and rarely allows explosive plays via the running game.

And while Jake Ryan was Green Bay’s primary linebacker on early downs; it’s not as if this is a run-heavy league in which Ryan has been counted on to anchor the run defense. Ryan played only 278 snaps against the run last season, only 50 more than he did against the pass. In fact, if you add in special team’s snaps, Ryan only played about 39% of his total snaps as a run defender.

It’s also worth noting that Jake Ryan was not the teams’ dedicated signal caller on defense either, so no significant changes will need to be made in regards to who is calling the plays on defense. Whoever fills in for Ryan will be able to play alongside a Stanford alum signal caller who is likely to get him setup in a position to succeed down in and down out.

Losing Ryan this early in the season stings, and having it come from a position without a ton of depth hurts even more. The loss of Ryan will be felt at some point this season when injuries pile up, but Green Bay and Mike Pettine should be able to adequately fill his role without needing to make major adjustments. If Oren Burks can be as versatile as advertised and Greer Martini can be the special teams’ demon that he’s been made out to be, they may have already replaced Jake Ryan’s contributions without needing to add a single player to the team.

Here’s hoping that Ryan is able to recover quickly and come back even better in 2019, but as far as 2018 is concerned, Green Bay will be able to play the same brand of fast-paced Mike Pettine football that they want to play without Ryan manning the middle of the defense.

Make sure to tune in Friday’s at 9:50am on WDUZ:

More on how Green Bay can replace Jake Ryan from Chris Peterson:


Andy is a graduate of UW-Oshkosh and owns & operates the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Andy has taken multiple courses in NFL scouting and appears weekly on 107.5 The Fan in Green Bay to breakdown film. This past season he was an analyst on Green Bay Nation on WFRV TV in Green Bay. Andy grew up in Green Bay and is a lifelong season ticket holder; follow him on Twitter at @sconniesports.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (43) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

porupack's picture

Very nice tribute to JRyan. Thanks for assembling the highlights. He will be missed. Model hard working, high effort, workin dog, team player.
Yeah, the team can readily compensate if no injuries to the next-up, but he is missed and hope he recovers well and comes back.

KenEllis's picture

Here are some quotes from Mr. Herman's article on Ryan:
"Ryan struggled ... in the passing game, specifically against play action."
"His overall relative athletic score put him within the top 22% of NFL linebackers ... Unfortunately that never really translated to the field."
"Ryan had peaked as an NFL inside linebacker. He was a replacement level player without a very high ceiling. "
"He ... never made any major impact either positively or negatively on the game as a whole."
"Going back and watching the tape you see numerous times where Ryan wasn’t able to hold up in pass coverage against bigger, faster tight ends. When play action was added it was even worse."

I agree with all these statements and I think Ryan won't be missed much if at all.

Oppy's picture

The strange thing is, the narrative of the article itself paints an entirely different picture than the blurbs that accompany the snippets of film break down.

Read just the article itself, and the message is Ryan isn't a liability but he's simply a placeholder until someone better comes along. Bypass the article itself, but watch all the video snippets and the commentary attached to them, and you'd think Jake Ryan was an up-and-coming rising star on the Packers defense.

dobber's picture

"He was one of the top 53 players on the roster, "

I'm one of the top one people in my office right now...

Bearmeat's picture

Seeing as you work in an office of one, this is not terribly impressive. :P

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

So, Dobber is kind of average? Even a median level type?

dobber's picture

I'm also at the top of the list...

dobber's picture

Neither is being one of the top 53 players on the roster.

The TKstinator's picture

Do you have a Swingline stapler?

Bearmeat's picture

lol. I love CHTV. Well done, sir.

dobber's picture

Yes, but mine is black...not red.

Since '61's picture

Cookie! Thanks, Since '61

Paul Konieczny's picture

Not Green or Gold? Or both? You suck.

The TKstinator's picture

Office Space.

RCPackerFan's picture

With the new DL, playing next to Martinez and the new scheme I think we will be just fine.

If Burks is the guy his speed should be seen. We could actually use a guy with good speed and Burks has that. Ahmad Thomas also has been talked about.

While Ryan was a good run stopper I think Burks or others could be just as good behind the DL that we have.

dobber's picture

I think you're right: if the DL is stout, as we seem to be expecting, a rangy ILB -- maybe Burks turns out to be that guy -- could be very valuable and productive. The ideal would be a true 3-down ILB who is big enough to take on the run and mobile enough to play sideline-to-sideline and in coverage, but those guys are top 20 picks. I was nervous about these 230 lb ILBs (that seems to fit most of the ILBs the Packers have behind Martinez) and how they'll hold up, but neither Martinez nor Ryan are the Incredible Hulk back there. Maybe all they need is a sure tackler who can run.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Martini is 232 pounds. 4.81 forty, 6.90 3 cone
Admad Thomas is 214 pounds, 4.68, 7.03
Porter is 229, 4.65, 6.91
Hughes is 259, 4.76, 7.70 3 cone
CJ Johnson is 226. 4.75, 7.07

These are all pro day numbers. I usually add .05 to those times. The vertical and broad jumps generally are not so hot. Looks like some of them have nice 3 cones. Still, these guys are slower, poorer athletes than Ryan generally (whose numbers are combine numbers), and less experienced.

I think Burks probably will do pretty well behind our DL. We will be fine if Martinez and Burks can play 16 games. If not, what could go wrong? I don't know that I'd pay much of anything for a Bowman type. We can probably find an ILB that has some experience who gets released at final cutdowns if necessary.

RCPackerFan's picture

I honestly think they will be fine with Burks (assuming he is ready). From the sounds of it they will be playing a lot of sub packages anyways. They have Rollins and others playing an ILB role. I'm sure we will see a bunch of players playing in new roles with Pettine.

I think speed behind our DL would be a huge addition.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I don't have Rollins making the 53 at the moment. At any rate, he is on the bubble.

Bearmeat's picture

This is absolutely true, but I am still concerned about depth at ILB. A sure tackler who doesn't suck in a phone booth is a valuable piece to have. I'd be all over getting another veteran FA ILB like Bowman.

RCPackerFan's picture

yeah, I agree about the depth. The depth of a true ILB is very weak. If Martinez goes down they are really hurting.

I'm not sure who all is available right now, but I'm sure more will become available. But I would be for adding a veteran of some sort.

Now that being said, as I said just a bit ago, they will be playing a lot of sub defenses this year. So the need for a pure ILB isn't as great. They can use guys like Mathews and Jones and others in that role.

I'm also not as worried with Pettine as the DC. With Capers I would definitely be more worried because he wouldn't change his defense based on the loss of players. Pettine will.

croatpackfan's picture

I believe Packers have replacement already on the roster. But only one thing worries me. All those players never played at the NFL level of speed. Well except maybe Thomas. If they can speed up their play, I think Packers will be OK. Second, if you are trying to find replacement for Blake, you should sign somebody at this moment. But we are talking about replacement for Jake, and that is completely different beast...

Hawg Hanner's picture

What a great well written and thought out piece. I agree Jake was merely a replacement level player and while no one beat him out of his job, its not like we lost a blue or red chip player. I wish him the best but it would be unlikely he'd be back next year based on very average talent and his single dimension as a run defender.

dobber's picture

"What a great well written and thought out piece"

Agreed! Andrew, your pieces are some of the most informative that show up here. Keep up the good work.

Andy Herman's picture

Thanks guys; appreciate the kind words!

Tarynfor12's picture

This article,aside from the effort put in of course, about Jake Ryan made me feel as though I was in Cawker City, Kansas staring and watching at the biggest ball of yarn..sorry twine unravel..and never having been there.

Can we make this the last ' golf clap ' for Ryan and move on to better...hopefully.

The TKstinator's picture

Come on now, smell the roses. Cawker City is an absolute DELIGHT this time of year.
And if you need assistance in this instance, sometimes a little “Absolut” goes a long way.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

As Dobber pointed out, Ryan was rated better by PFF in pass coverage than Martinez. And Ryan was 2nd in the NFL in run stop efficiency. There are no clips of Ryan failing in pass coverage. Someone mentioned that Kamara burned him, but I'd expect Kamara to burn most ILBs.

Given our cap space, roster spots, development of young guys (by which I mean getting a one-year rental to shore up a position like ILB), I'd rather either get an FA safety or hold our money to see if an interesting player gets released later on as a cap casualty. Teams often have to take a bit of a chance at one or two positions, and I guess ILB is it for me. [The middle has been soft for years now, so perhaps the attitude I just espoused is the reason why. But I think Burks can help clamp down on our problems in the middle of the field.]

Bearmeat's picture

I'd like to know the sample size of that PFF rating though. If Martinez was asked to cover for 600 snaps and Ryan for 75, one PBU could completely change the rating for the latter....

DraftHobbyist's picture

Sample size doesn't matter much to me because PFF is not a legitimate source. I understand why people use it from time-to-time, but they get so many ratings wrong...

WKUPackFan's picture

How about publishing the Drafthobbyist rating system that is so vastly superior. After all, you were clairvoyant enough to know that the Packers would draft a punter.

DraftHobbyist's picture

I don't want to put that much time into rating all the different plays. If you want to pay me $40,000/year I'll make a system, though. What do you say?

WKUPackFan's picture

I say that you should keep your uniformed opinions about other ratings systems to yourself, along with your self-aggrandizing attacks on people who cite those systems.

dobber's picture

I tend to agree on PFF, but it's the most widely accepted "objective" (note the quotes) ratings system out there. There's not much else to go by, and arguing between them is like arguing whether the Beatles are better than the Rolling Stones. The ratings aren't "wrong"...a system does what a system does, and every system is fundamentally flawed in some way. It just seems that people have decided to roll more with the flaws of PFF.

The TKstinator's picture

FTR: Stones > Beatles.

(Per TKFocus)

dobber's picture

I tend to agree, but I'm not a big fan of either.

Paul Konieczny's picture

The Beatles spank the Stones. They have Lennon. Carry on.

holmesmd's picture

Isn’t set the edge .com better than PFF?

PAPackerbacker's picture

A speedy recover to you Jake Ryan. You are a solid player and will certainly be missed. But we do have talented back ups and hope they cane be coached well so they can do as good a job as Jake Ryan has done. Let's just hope that none of the back ups will go down to injury as well. It's a team effort that wins championships and here's hoping the Packers can get the younger, less experienced players up to speed and ready to do a good a job as Jake Ryan has done last season. I'm sure Pattine is working hard at doing just that. Get well Jake Ryan. Go! Pack! Go!

Since '61's picture

As I posted yesterday, Ryan ain't no Nitschke. We are fretting over the loss of this guy like he's an all-pro or HOFer. He is not a game changer. Yes, he plays hard, yes, he's made some nice plays but this is why we as Packer fans tend to over value the quality of our players.

Ryan is an average player on his best days. I don't think that we have won any games because of Ryan. Will he be missed, definitely maybe. I wish him well but if we continue to treat this like we have lost one of our best defenders than our defense is in bigger trouble than we think. We were 7-9 with him, I'm sure that we can be at least 7-9 without him.

How do we replace him? Find a better player and keep trying guys out until we do. Maybe one of young players can get the job done. Maybe we get by this season and draft his replacement in 2019. In any case we've used plenty of blog space on Jake Ryan!!?? Thanks, Since '61

Paul Konieczny's picture

If Burks can replace his 80 tackles, that’d be great.

Since '61's picture

Agreed! Thanks, Since '61

MITM's picture

All due respect since 61' nobody is saying hes Nitschke. The point is - this isnt high school or college football. You cant always replace a guy internally, because you also dont HAVE to do that in the NFL. You can bring in experience. Ryan has made plays in the NFL, nobody else we have to replace him has played an NFL snap period. We dont need to use the Thompson method that failed us time and time again of "well lets just see how an undrafted rookie does who never played an NFL snap or top competition in college no less".

Not to mention Ahmad Thomas and Oren Burks (who i believe can both be very good players) are converted safeties who havent learned the nuances of ILB yet to just say ok start one of them its no problem.

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