How the Packers can Replace Jake Ryan

Let me start by saying that I really like Jake Ryan as a football player. He's tough and he's one of the better young inside linebackers in the NFL when it comes to stopping the run.

However, he's not a 3-down linebacker and he's a guy that probably would have fit much better in the NFL 20 or 30 years ago. I'm not saying there isn't a need for tough guys, but even though Ryan started 27 games the past few years, he was never truly a full-time player. 

There is no doubt, he was part of the reason to be excited about the Packers run defense. With Ryan and Blake Martinez inside, as well as Clay Matthews and Nick Perry on the outside, plus a defensive line that features Mike Daniels, Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenny Clark, Green Bay looks pretty stout. 

Even with the loss of the Ryan, the Packers still do. And there are a number of options on the table with Ryan officially out for the 2018 season. An obvious one is third-round rookie Oren Burks. The kid from Vanderbilt was a former safety and is known more for his coverage skills, but behind a potentially dominant front, he might be able to hold his own.

Josh Jones is another viable option, depending on how things work out with Kentrell Brice. Brice was hurt the same day as Ryan, yet was seen at practice observing Wednesday. At the moment, he seems to have avoided a serious injury, but he is going to miss some time. However, if Brice gets back healthy, it will give Green Bay the flexibility to use Jones as an inside linebacker, where he had two sacks last season. 

Jones and Burks would probably both see snaps there. The Packers could also look a signing a guy like Kenny Vaccaro, a free-agent safety that could add depth and also allow Jones to move around if Brice isn't healthy or is ineffective. The talk has been about signing a free-agent linebacker, but a good safety might just do the trick.

Another name to watch is rookie Greer Martini, a free agent out of Notre Dame. He has turned some heads and is making a push for a roster spot with his work on special teams. He has also seen snaps with the No. 2 defense. It will be interesting if he can earn more opportunities, especially with the bullets start flying in the preseason. Outside of that, Green Bay still has more potential fill-ins on the roster, namely, Clay Matthews and Vince Biegel.

We all know how productive Matthews has been playing inside before and it's possible he could see some snaps there again. As good as he is as a pass rusher, Matthews is equally adept at finding the football and making plays. It wouldn't be full-time because he's also needed on the edge but it's a thought. Biegel also has a background in it at Wisconsin and some scouts viewed him potentially as a middle linebacker when he came out in the 2017 NFL draft.

It's also possible that Mike Pettine plays more four-man fronts, which would have basically bumped Ryan out of the lineup anyway. And truly, as a coverage player, I hate to say it, but Ryan won't be missed. Against running backs or tight ends, the guy is an absolute nightmare. 

Pettine has also made it clear, he thinks containing the pass is much more important in today's NFL in stopping the run. Ryan is a good run defender, however, his role was already being diminished, which is why there should be no panic about his loss. 

The Packers have plenty of good options available at their disposal. Injuries happen and it stinks, but in this case, especially, Green Bay is more than equipped to handle it. 

__________________________

Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

NFL Categories: 
0 points

Comments (28)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Johnblood27's picture

August 02, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Assuming that Ryans use would be the same in Pettines defense as it was in Capers.

i am all for giving every defensive a clean slate under Pettines scheme and motivation.

Ryan was primed to be impactful with his style of play and Pettine putting him in positions to succeed.

Jake will be missed this season simply because veteran know how beats rookie uncertainty.

Im not willing to rationalize Jakes lack of impact and say his injury doesnt hurt this team.

In the meantime, Run Oren, Run!

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
4thand10's picture

August 02, 2018 at 12:52 pm

“ Pettine has also made it clear, he thinks containing the pass is much more important in today's NFL in stopping the run.”
This makes me nervous. Chicago is not going to win with stellar QB play...they will run Howard 20+ offensive snaps. Minnesota while they do have a QB will most likely run Cook and Murray until they wear a team down before passing. Detroit’s problem has never been passing lately...they haven’t had a good RB for awhile so they drafted one...so I feel it will be a focus for them. Passing league or not, you still have to stop the run.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Jonathan Spader's picture

August 02, 2018 at 01:05 pm

Our DL can still stop the run. We also have Perry and Martinez who are both effective against the run. The addition or loss of Ryan. Doesn't make or break the Packers ability to combat the run.

His absence will be felt on ST where he played a TON of snaps.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
4thand10's picture

August 02, 2018 at 02:49 pm

I agree JS, especially if they use 3 down Lineman. However my beef with Capers was always utilizing CB’s and Safties as LBs. They are gifted in terms of running with WRs and TE’s and have the speed to tackle RBs before they get started, but you don’t rely on them as bread and butter to stop the run. I believe that’s how the injuries pile up... too many little on big. Just my opinion.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Bert's picture

August 02, 2018 at 02:22 pm

I'd just as soon go with the younger guys we currently have on the roster. I'm not sure bringing in an over-the-hill vet with bad wheels will gain much. Hardy Nickerson Part II.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Coldworld's picture

August 02, 2018 at 05:49 pm

But which younger guy represents the potential run stuffing option to compliment Martinez against the Vikings or in late season weather? It is no accident that Ryan featured more in the last third of the season.

Martini and the other UDFA ILB, whose name escapes me? That seems to be asking a lot of UDFA rookies. The rest are seen more as coverage types and have that body type. I worry about their ability to take the pounding and shift bodies.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
billybobton's picture

August 02, 2018 at 02:23 pm

Ryan on special teams can be replaced, it is likely we will notice the loss of Janis.

Ryan was effective in limited situations and got tom any snaps, those snaps going to better players being used in smarter ways will improve, not hurt the team

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Since'61's picture

August 02, 2018 at 03:10 pm

Ryan ain’t no Nitschke. The defense will get on without him and maybe improve. Ryan played the run well but against teams that were usually playing with a lead once Rodgers went down. I’m not counting his games against Cleveland and Tampa because they’re Cleveland and Tampa.

We need more speed on defense especially against the run at the ILB position. We also need ILBs who can cover. We should give our young guys a chance to see what they can deliver. I have nothing against signing a vet and putting him in the ILB rotation. But let’s give our young guys a chance. Thanks, Since ‘61

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Jonathan Spader's picture

August 02, 2018 at 03:42 pm

The problem with our young guys at ILB is they're UDFAs. Relying on those players is what got us in trouble at CB when we had Gunter as our #1 after injuries put him in that spot. Burks is the only young guy we have that was drafted.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Demon's picture

August 02, 2018 at 07:56 pm

You're right 61. Ryan is NOT Nitschke. I miss the days when the MLB was in on every tackle. Nitcke, Butkus, Singletary those guys were the real deal.

If I had to compare Ryan to anyone I'd say Brian Noble. A gritty 2 down LB that offered very little against the pass.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
The TKstinator's picture

August 02, 2018 at 08:48 pm

I miss those days too. The halfback was just as vital as the quarterback.
I’m not a big fan of constant 3 wide, shotgun offense and defense always in the nickel.
But I don’t think those days are coming back.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
DD's picture

August 02, 2018 at 03:45 pm

If an inside backer is required, make sure he can cover tight ends and running backs. Also. those crossing routes across the middle.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
MITM's picture

August 02, 2018 at 03:58 pm

Ahmad Thomas and Oren Burks are supposed to be those 2 guys. The question is how they will hold up against the run. So I would rather see us sign a thumper if we can get one cheap.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
MITM's picture

August 02, 2018 at 03:55 pm

As per PFF (for what its worth) Jake Ryan finished 2017 2nd for Inside Linebackers in run stop percentage. Kuechly was 1st at 11.3% and Ryan was at 11.2%.

I am a fan of Burks and am glad to see Ahmad Thomas seizing this opportunity and impressing. However we've been in this situation before. Martinez is the only ILB on the roster who has a snap in an NFL game. Burks was a 3rd rounder who is in his first full offseason taking all his snaps at ILB. Ahmad Thomas UDFA and converted safety. The other 3 guys we have are also UDFA's. Thats not gonna cut it right now. Not saying 1 or 2 of these guys wont blossom into assets to this team and end up as nice players for us. Just right now we need to bring in a veteran at the right price.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
DraftHobbyist's picture

August 02, 2018 at 04:17 pm

I felt light at ILB coming into the season, but I understood that you have to take chances at some positions. With Ryan going doing already for the season, I don't really see much of a direct replacement, and what happens if someone else goes down? I think it would be irresponsible not to pick some ILB up at this point, at least for cheap.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Bearmeat's picture

August 02, 2018 at 05:41 pm

Agreed. I really think BG has to go shopping in the FA bargain bin at ILB.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

August 03, 2018 at 08:26 am

If he does, I think that tells us a lot about what they think of their remaining bodies and depth at ILB.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Lare's picture

August 02, 2018 at 05:04 pm

The problem is easily solved by moving Matthews inside. He's really not that effective or productive on the outside anymore anyway, His numbers can easily be replaced by Biegel and/or Gilbert.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Coldworld's picture

August 02, 2018 at 05:56 pm

That is great optimism. Rare here. I don’t share it sadly, at least on a long term basis.

Normally signing a declining vet or one who is merely adequate is not my preference, but here I think we need to consider it seriously. It worked at guard last year and we should have that type of player in our tool box.

We are not exactly deep at OLB either, so weakening that group further would seem dangerous in its own right.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Lare's picture

August 02, 2018 at 06:07 pm

But isn't Matthews just a declining vet player at this stage of his career?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
stockholder's picture

August 02, 2018 at 06:49 pm

They said the same thing about TED Hendricks. Mathews can still play anywhere. I believe the OLBs are better than we have seen. Frackwell and Biegel both will make jumps this year. All the LBs will be rotated this year. The speed to keep people fresh will pay big dividends. You'll see!

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

August 03, 2018 at 08:28 am

Aside from a couple of the safety converts (which includes Burks), Matthews is still likely the best athlete in the Packers' LB corps.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
lucky953's picture

August 02, 2018 at 06:57 pm

There will be good options available on the wire going forward. The personnel guys are keeping a list and checking it twice. If Pettine says they need someone, they will find someone. Let’s see some exhibition games.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Bure9620's picture

August 02, 2018 at 08:13 pm

Hate to say it, but a blessing in disguise this is. So sick of Ryan getting burned by a RB out of the backfield in coverage.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Spock's picture

August 03, 2018 at 07:34 am

"...blessing in disguise this is." I can't argue with someone who is channeling Yoda. :)

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
dobber's picture

August 03, 2018 at 08:32 am

When you've got a weakness, other teams are going to shift to exploit it. With all the QB checkdowns that happen at the line, they're going to identify when they can take advantage of a Ryan/Martinez base pairing. Ryan actually rated well in coverage according to PFF last year (it was in a recent JSOnline article earlier this week)--better than Martinez. Must indicate that when he got beat it was significant because none of us seem to remember his successes.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
MITM's picture

August 02, 2018 at 10:52 pm

I definitely think that the Packers are waiting to see who ends up getting cut from where. Theres always a few surprises every year and they could have a significant contributor at ILB or OLB fall right into their laps for any number of reasons. The most obvious one being a team running a new defensive scheme, and having to cut a guy loose because they no longer are a good fit. Not every 3-4 OLB can transition to 4-3 DE or 4-3 OLB and vice versa.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Guam's picture

August 03, 2018 at 08:15 am

I agree we need additional depth and experience at ILB, but it will be a wait and see process as the two available free agents (Bowman and Cushing) may have too much mileage on their treads to be effective. Many cuts will happen between now and the beginning of the season and hopefully one will be a younger, run stuffing ILB with some pass coverage capability.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.