Packers Could Turn to Safety As Concern Grows at Inside Linebacker

The Packers may ask some of their safeties to play in the box more in 2020. 

 

 

Injuries have struck the inside linebacker position for the Green Bay Packers after it was already pretty thin to begin with. The good news is that they have a few possible solutions in the form of safeties Adrian Amos, Raven Greene, and Will Redmond. All three have experience playing in the box and could help offset the team’s uncertainty at inside linebacker until they find the best solution.

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky announced via Twitter that Packers rookie LB Kamal Martin is expected to miss several weeks after undergoing surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. Martin, a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft, was already making an impact in training camp. Martin’s injury is expected to leave Green Bay’s defense without a rotational linebacker for the first few games of the season.

The Packers were already dealing with an injury to another possible starter in Oren Burks. Burks left last Saturday’s practice with an undisclosed knee injury and never returned. Since being drafted in the third round in 2018, Burks has battled injuries every year before the start of the regular season. Both Burks and Martin were in the running to start alongside Christian Kirksey.

It’s somewhat of a longshot, however, the team has two other options in Ty Summers and Curtis Bolton. While they are raw and inexperienced, both Summers and Bolton showed potential during the 2019 preseason. The only issue is that the two players may be vying for the same spot on the final roster. With Kirksey, Burks, and Martin as locks to make the team, that likely leaves room for only one additional inside linebacker.

If Burks also unavailable for their week one matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers will be forced to think outside the box when it comes to shoring up the middle of the defense. Fortunately, Green Bay could have some wiggle room with having three safeties that can slide into a hybrid role.

Of the 1,036 snaps Amos played in 2019, 27 percent were as a box safety. This may not seem as a lot to some, but it at least offers some flexibility if Martin and Burks aren’t healthy.

The Packers could also turn to Greene who has carved out a role as a hybrid safety-linebacker since making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2018. When healthy, Greene appeared ready to grow into his role as a nickel linebacker, however, he has missed significant time with injury over the last two years. Last season, he appeared in two games before an ankle injury landed him on injured reserve.

In 55 snaps during the season opener against the Chicago Bears, Greene totaled six tackles and a pass deflection. Unfortunately, he has also missed practice time with an undisclosed injury but is expected to be available for the season opener on September 13th against the Minnesota Vikings.

There is also Will Redmond, who was signed to the team’s practice squad in 2018. Redmond was eventually bumped up to the Packers active roster and has stuck around since. In 2019, he posted career highs in games played (13), starts (four), total tackles (30), solo tackles (23) and passes defensed (one). Redmond also tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with nine.

Green Bay is already feeling the pain of not having Blake Martinez who they let walk this offseason. They opted to sign a cheaper option in Kirksey, but he has also had serious injury concerns the last two years. Currently, they are relying on Kirksey remaining healthy and a multitude of question marks to replace one of the NFL’s most prolific tacklers. What the Packers do have is the luxury of creativity when it comes to implementing their safeties. But at some point, they will need to figure out who their main guys will be.

 

 

Brandon Carwile is a Packers writer who also enjoys watching and breaking down film. Follow him on Twitter @PackerScribe.

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Comments (16)

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dblbogey's picture

September 04, 2020 at 04:35 pm

Raven Greene handled the position perfectly until his injury. He's the man for the job.

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Coldworld's picture

September 04, 2020 at 04:46 pm

He may have the ability but his availability would seem questionable at a shade under 200 pounds. In game emergency? Sure. Long term, no. In addition. When Greene was injured last year, Amos got pulled up. Not the best use of Amos. Playing him as a starting ILB is odds on to just create a problem at his position. Also not guaranteed Greene will be ready week one anyway.

Like it or not: Burks is going to have to show up.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

September 04, 2020 at 04:37 pm

Exactly how is Green Bay "already feeling the pain" of losing Blake Martinez? They saved a lot a dough by not re-signing a guy who was solid but nowhere near spectacular. Kirksey already knew Pettine's defense, so he could step in even in this strange shortened offseason.

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Coldworld's picture

September 04, 2020 at 04:49 pm

Injury history notwithstanding, by all accounts Kirksey looks like a big upgrade in Pettine’s system at this point.

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BrandonCarwile's picture

September 04, 2020 at 06:28 pm

Martinez was about as close to a sure thing as the Packers have had. Fans obviously had their transgressions with his play but he didn’t miss a game the last three seasons and you typically knew what you would get on Sunday. There’s a lot of uncertainty at that position right now.

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splitpea1's picture

September 04, 2020 at 07:55 pm

Enough already--Martinez is gone. In this case I'll trade the certainty for a potential upgrade. And if it doesn't work out due to injuries or lack of quality play, the Packers might just have to, for once, spend a high draft pick on this position (we'll believe it when we see it).

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Bear's picture

September 04, 2020 at 04:50 pm

I thought Bolton was still on the PUP list?

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BrandonCarwile's picture

September 04, 2020 at 06:25 pm

He is and could be a long shot but I thought he showed tremendous upside last year.

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Coldworld's picture

September 04, 2020 at 11:15 pm

I would think, depending on severity, he might be a candidate for coming off the PUP during the season.

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MITM's picture

September 04, 2020 at 05:44 pm

Broncos just released Todd Davis who was a starter for them and is a solid run defender. Jets released James Burgess who played well for them in a pinch and may or may not have spent time with Pettine in Cleveland im not too sure. Nigel Bradham still available but probably too expensive.

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CoachDino's picture

September 04, 2020 at 07:02 pm

The information that needs to be considered first is how many snaps did the packers play with 2 ILB? The whole premise of the article needs to start there.

Off the top of my head I believe its around 35%. Doesn't mean that's what they wanted to do this year but if we are referencing 2019 it's relevant.

Also Greene was hurt and Redmond is not a big run support guy. So it may of even been less

Martinez wasn't let go for money as much as performance. I believe most would say Kirksey should be an upgrade. If healthy....

I agree that thee Packers will continue to do what they did last year with all the injuries , Burks and Martin,in playing with only one ILB, sucks as if they wanted to improve against the run, no matter how much we all like Greene he's not going to give you the run support that Martin and Burks would. Sorry to be so critical...

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BrandonCarwile's picture

September 04, 2020 at 07:47 pm

“If healthy” is the main thing with Kirksey and it’s vital. I’ve said before he is better in coverage than Martinez but may be a downgrade against the run. I also didn’t see how referencing 2019 would be helpful when BJ Goodson was acquired right before the season and was a stop gap at best. The Packers didn’t have two ILBs they could really play together too much considering both Martinez and Goodson were run stoppers. Considering the athleticism they have tried to bring to the position, I believe they want to play their inside backers together more.

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Coldworld's picture

September 04, 2020 at 11:21 pm

Pettine made it clear that the lack of options at ILB and particularly once Greene went down at hybrid ILB/Safety, changed the way he and the team approached things. Hopefully Scott can grow to provide depth at hybrid (hoping Greene is back) and Burks or Summers can hold up at ILB 2 at least while Martin recovers. Redmond is the deep safety cover and a central field db option.

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CoachDino's picture

September 05, 2020 at 05:24 am

"Of the 1,036 snaps Amos played in 2019, 27 percent were as a box safety. This may not seem as a lot to some, but it at least offers some flexibility if Martin and Burks aren’t healthy" Maybe I focused on it to much. They played with 2 ILB,s 25% of the time so with the injuries they will most likely use 1 ILB personel minimizing the impact. As mentioned below and in your comment IMHO they would like to see 2 ILB more often.
Kirksey is not a downgrade against the run. Blake was known for tackling downfield as the PFF stats show, hence his poor run grade. The hope is Kirksey being faster can get there sooner. Actually it's not like one is MUCH better than the other.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 05, 2020 at 12:31 pm

I mean, was this ever in doubt? The fact is, since AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett - THREE GMs ago, Green Bay hasn't drafted an ILB in round 1 or 2. They also haven't spent more than they did on Kirksey in that time, which is a lower tier starting veteran salary at the position.

Blake was right: GB doesn't care about ILB. And TEs, slot WRs and RBs have killed us in the passing game for over a decade because of it. You can fairly say that this is the least poor way to construct a defense in a hard cap league. But the fact remains: We suck at ILB. We have sucked at ILB. And until we start prioritizing it, we will suck at ILB.

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rstain99's picture

September 06, 2020 at 07:08 am

Here we go again teams heavy on the run will have success again. If they stop the run they can be good, Hope they comb the waiver wire pick up one of those run stuffers else be long season, lots of 35-33 games. Hold on!

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