Packers Linebacker Krys Barnes Faces New Challenges In 2022

The road to the NFL hasn't been easy for Packers linebacker Krys Barnes. The former UCLA star overcame long odds to not only earn a roster spot with the Packers but a starting job in his rookie year. This season, Barnes will face some different challenges in his NFL journey but don't bet against him being equal to the task.

Barnes went undrafted after his senior year at UCLA. While he was always a productive player and a leader in college, he had average size and didn't exactly excel when it came to pre-draft testing.

"He had played good football in college, [but] he did not test particularly well, and sometimes that's what happens," Packers GM Brain Gutekunst said of Barnes last preseason. "They fall through the cracks because maybe they didn't test at the NFL norms that everybody's looking for. And then they get [into the league] and they get an opportunity and they take full advantage of it."

As an undrafted free agent, Barnes had an uphill climb to make the Packers roster in 2020. There were no in-person OTAs and no preseason games that year because of the pandemic. That made it even more difficult for an undrafted player to make an impression on the coaching staff.

But somehow, Barnes did make an impression. Although the Packers released him before the season started, they signed him to the practice squad before the first game of the 2020 season. He was elevated to the active roster for the season opener and then remained there for the rest of the season.

Barnes played in 13 games as a rookie, starting 10 of them. He was in on 80 tackles including five tackles for loss. He also forced a fumble and recorded one sack.

"Every time he's had an opportunity, he's just capitalized on it," Gutekunst added. "He's been ready, he's been prepared, he's fought through injuries. It's really a credit to the kid because when you come in like Krys did, you're not going to get the same opportunities maybe as a guy who gets drafted high does. When you get those opportunities, you have to make the most of them -- whether that's in the meeting room with a coach, whether that's on the field in a preseason game, in a practice, whatever it is, you have to make the most of those opportunities to get more opportunities and he's done that the whole way through."

In his second season, Barnes played in 16 games and started 13. He was on the field for 52 percent of the team's defensive snaps and also saw action on special teams. Barnes may not be big or very fast by NFL standards, but he works hard, studies the playbook and uses his intelligence and anticipation to be in the right place at the right time to make plays.

In 2021, Barnes made 81 tackles, recovered two fumbles, broke up four passes and added another sack to his totals. He definitely made some progress as a player in his second year in the league and was even calling signals for the defense at times during the preseason.

But during the offseason, the Packers drafted linebacker Quay Walker with their first selection in the first round, 22nd overall. The Georgia product has the size and athletic ability scouts look for in an off-ball linebacker.

It is obvious that the Packers didn't draft Walker to have him sit on the bench and most observers say it is just a matter of time before Walker supplants Barnes as the starter at inside linebacker opposite All-Pro De'Vondre Campbell. Once again, Barnes will face a challenge for his starting job.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry is expected to play two off-ball linebackers more frequently this season to help improve the run defense. This means more snaps and opportunities for inside linebackers to be on the field.

Barnes will have to be ready. Whether the's in the starting lineup when the regular season gets underway in September or he begins the year as the primary backup to both Campbell and Walker, Barnes will still see the field. He will also likely play on special teams and will see some action in a rotation on defense depending on the package the Packers are in.

Obviously, Barnes will also have to be ready to fill in if either Campbell or Walker miss time due to injuries or ineffective play.

Don't count Krys Barnes out. He's overcome long odds before and made a place for himself on this football team. Nothing in the NFL is given to anybody and Barnes won't give up his starting job without a fight.

 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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5 points

Comments (15)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
T7Steve's picture

June 30, 2022 at 01:11 pm

These guys are unreal athletes! I thought our high school had outstanding talent and maybe one or two got a chance to move on to smaller schools, let alone the NFL.

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Bitternotsour's picture

June 30, 2022 at 01:58 pm

There are roughly 1200 people on the planet at a given time who can make it onto an NFL roster. Staying on a roster is a major accomplishment, few people get vested in that pension system. People should pause and think what amazing athletes these guys are. What a hard job they're doing, and how hard it is to keep that job. Amazing. The bottom of the roster guys deserve huge respect.

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 30, 2022 at 03:53 pm

It's 2144 that are getting paid during the season(53+14PS) but there's a lot of churn in that bottom 500 or so.

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T7Steve's picture

June 30, 2022 at 02:06 pm

Along with our service members who might not be NFL caliber athletes but, have to have the same drive to make them the best in the world.

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ricky's picture

June 30, 2022 at 02:07 pm

If Barnes can become a ST's demon, he'll improve his chances of staying on the team. Also, there is always the chance of injury, and he should be ready to step in. I've liked Barnes since he first took the field for the Packers. He played with fire and determination, adding some fierceness to a team that, all too often, is seen more as a finesse team. After reading this article, my respect for him has gone up even further. Best of luck, young man.

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T7Steve's picture

June 30, 2022 at 02:16 pm

We were desperate for any help to stop the run. He stuck his head in and made no excuses.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 30, 2022 at 02:24 pm

I like Barnes. I"ve liked him since I noticed on the replays he was always in the frame, and not in a "Brady Poppinga jump on the pile" way, either. Then this last year, he was on the field quite a bit and some astute posters noted that we improved the defense by getting a better guy there. I can kind of see what they meant....he made his share of mistakes...., but I still think he's a really good player and we're lucky to have a guy like him as a reserve. This is definitely one of the guys the defense wants dressed out on gameday.

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HawkPacker's picture

June 30, 2022 at 06:43 pm

I agree Leatherhead. We are lucky to have him and he will be ready when needed plus he could really help on special teams.

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HarryHodag's picture

June 30, 2022 at 02:24 pm

Many people forget the words 'quality depth', an increasingly vital element in today's NFL. With the exception most of the time at quarterback, few players get through the season without some sort of injury. It's 17 regular season games with high explosive contact over and over. Last season, for example, saw the offensive line racked by injury but the quality depth stepped up and the Packers made the playoffs.

This is where Barnes is at. The team probably sees Walker as the starter long term. But Barnes will play plenty. He's a player that can start but likely replaced by a better athlete.

I applaud Gute and staff for finally fixing the linebacking corps, the secondary and the defensive line. Even if Rodgers isn't around next year this will be a competitive team, likely for many years.

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Pantz_Burp's picture

June 30, 2022 at 03:57 pm

Keep on grinding Krys...💪

When one door closes, another Barnes door opens.

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porupack's picture

June 30, 2022 at 04:12 pm

nice. I've been reminded of that many times, especially now that I'm getting older.

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Pantz_Burp's picture

June 30, 2022 at 04:30 pm

I so hear ya porupack! Keep on keeping on and try to enjoy the moments...✌️

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 30, 2022 at 04:02 pm

Barnes will make over $3 million in his first 4 years so I don't feel sorry for him losing his starter spot. He makes some nice plays but has just as many flubs. Don't want him on the field on passing downs in a passing league. Gave up an 87% completion percentage and 299 YAC yards last year. I expect Walker to have his struggles while he adjusts to a more varied scheme but by mid season he should be an asset in the short-intermediate pass defense. Barnes is a solid backup who should have no problem staying on the team the next two years.

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 30, 2022 at 04:10 pm

BTW I posted this over on Acme but it's a nice breakdown of the 1st round picks this year. On Walker:

"Georgia used Walker as their space eradicator, sliding Walker out into the spot known as the ‘Apex Cover Down’, the spot between the offensive tackle and slot receiver. It’s known in coaching parlance as the RPO-eraser, the corridor that teams like to target on quick-breaking RPOs with slant and post patterns."

"Back to the earlier points on linebackers writ large, Walker profiles as an off-ball, see-it-find-it linebacker in Bear fronts. He isn’t someone who can slide down to the edge in the pros; he just lacks the in-line play strength to stand up tackles, who can comfortably gallop over his smaller frame."

"That’s fine! Find out what players do and put them in positions to succeed. Walker is a ferocious blitzer, someone who can comfortably mug along any of the interior gaps in pressure packages or slip over to the edge in zone-pressure situations.

His real value, however, will come in coverage. Walker is one of the few who can really move in space and match up to tight ends — he has the agility, length, and smarts to read and redirect, and then match bigger-bodied tight ends at the catch-point."

The breakdown on Wyatt is pretty interesting too. He wasn't as glowing about Watson but made some good points.

https://readoptional.substack.com/p/pick-by-pick-analysis-of-the-first

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PhantomII's picture

June 30, 2022 at 08:58 pm

I like Barnes. He hits really hard. In last years SF game he knocked Debow out for a series and had him sucking oxygen pretty hard for a while from the hit. Unfortunately Samuel is a tenacious player also and he came back in and hurt us again. Barnes and Amos are pretty good thumpers. Barnes is a good rotation LB. Glad we have him.

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