Post-Draft Packers Position Analysis: Inside Linebackers

Avoiding Injuries and Development Key to Success for Packers ILBs

Up next in the CheeseheadTV Post Draft Packers Position Analysis series is the inside linebackers. 

With the NFL Draft behind us, the Green Bay Packers gear up for the 2020 season with some new faces looking to make an impact. This offseason General Manager Brian Gutekunst utilized free agency to add former Cleveland Brown Christian Kirksey, drafted the University of Minnesota's Kamal Martin with a 5th-round pick, and signed UDFA Krys Barnes out of UCLA. 

Here's a closer look at all of the ILBs on the current roster to see what the position will look like this upcoming season:

Christian Kirksey

The former Browns captain comes into the 2020 season, and his 7th year in the NFL, on a one-year deal looking to rebound after injury-riddled 2018 and 2019 seasons that saw him only play in 9 games. 

When healthy, Kirksey has proven to be one of the better ILBs in the league with above-average man coverage abilities against tight-ends and running backs who have been the Packer defense's achilles heel in the past. He has also shown to be a dependable tackler, logging 286 total tackles in the 2016 and 2017 seasons to go along with 17 TFL and a pair of forced fumbles.

He played his first two years in Cleveland under current Packers Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine, so he should have some familiarity when it comes to Pettine's schemes and assignments. But ultimately his impact will come down to his ability to stay on the field. If he can stay healthy, he should be a great addition to an already good Packers defense. Expect him to be at the top of the depth chart come week one. 

 

Oren Burks

Burks enters his third year in the NFL with a great opportunity to take over the #2 spot on the depth chart at ILB. But there are questions regarding his ability to stay healthy as well as his on-field play. 

He was hampered for most of last season after suffering a pectoral injury during the preseason, but opted to play through it instead of having season-ending surgery. The result was that he played in only 6% of defensive snaps. In his rookie year, a preseason shoulder injury forced him out until a couple weeks into the regular season. 

The 2018 3rd-round pick was supposed to be the athletic coverage linebacker to pair with the run-stuffing Blake Martinez, but he hasn't quite been able to take that next step. Hopefully he can get through the 2020 preseason injury-free and improve upon his coverage and recognition abilities to take over that spot next to Kirksey.  

 

Kamal Martin

Martin was selected by the Packers in the 5th round of this year's NFL Draft out of Minnesota after playing in 45 games and totaling 177 tackles, 13 TFL, 3.5 sacks, and 4 INT. 

He became a regular in the Gophers' rotation right away, playing in 13 games as a true freshman, and starting in 18 out of 24 games between his sophomore and junior years. He was well on his way to having a nice senior campaign with 66 tackles, 2.5 TFL, a pair of INT and FF as well as a sack through 8 games, but a late-season knee injury cut his year short. However he still earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and the injury is not expected to be an issue come training camp. 

Martin is well-known as an unflinching and relentless tackler with a nose for the ballcarrier, and is expected to be a formidable competitor for Burks, Ty Summers, and Curtis Bolton. The question is can he stay healthy and show an ability to take his talents to another level? If he does so he could possibly take over the #2 spot at some point. 

 

Ty Summers

Ty Summers comes into his 2nd year with the Packers after mostly seeing time on special teams in the 2019 season. In fact he logged over 350 ST snaps over the course of the season after being taken in the 7th round by the Packers in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

As a result, we haven't been able to see much of Summers at the ILB position other than time he saw in the preseason. But in that time he showed a knack for getting downhill quickly, showing sideline-to-sideline speed, and being aggressive against the run.

We should be able to get a better idea of where Summers stands this upcoming preseason as he'll certainly get the chance to compete with Burks, Martin, and Bolton for the #2 spot. At the very least he is a solid special teams player that could be able to earn a roster spot because of that ability. 

 

Curtis Bolton

The former Oklahoma Sooner and UDFA spent his rookie year on the Packers' injured reserve list after suffering a torn ACL in a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. He was one of the more surprising stories of the Packers' 2019 preseason. 

Bolton was one of the Packers' best preseason defenders and was on track to make the 53-man roster and start alongside Blake Martinez in week one after Burks' pectoral injury. He likely would have seen significant time in the first few weeks of the season if it wasn't for his injury.

Perhaps the redshirt year will have served Bolton well since he had a chance to sit back and learn more about Mike Pettine's defense, but having to sit out a year due to injury as a rookie free agent isn't exactly the best way to start a career. But after spending a year healing and getting stronger, he has a great opportunity to do what he did last year and slide up the depth chart. I expect him to come back strong and put up a formidable fight for a roster spot like he did last year.

 

Krys Barnes

Krys Barnes is the last ILB on the Packers' roster for the time being after inking a UDFA deal shortly after last month's draft. 

He comes from UCLA after being a staple in the Bruins' defense from 2017-2019. Barnes totaled 210 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 5 sacks, and a pair of interceptions in 34 games. 

He'll face an uphill battle to make the roster with Bolton, Martin, and Burks currently ahead of him on the depth chart. But with injuries being a concern for this position group, Barnes will have to be ready to go at a moment's notice. 

 

Summary:

The success of this group hinges upon being able to stay healthy, and taking steps forward in development. Kirksey should be a dependable starter for Mike Pettine as long as he can steer clear of the injury bug, and improvement must be shown by Burks to live up to his 3rd-round pick status. Kamal Martin could be an eventual starter if he outperforms Burks and Summers, while Summers will try to prove he is more than just a special teams player. And will Bolton continue to build off of his 2019 preseason performance after his injury? This is a position with alot of opportunity, and there should be a great amount of competition seen within this group in the preseason. 

 

Ryne Ryskoski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV who attends Texas A&M University where he is majoring in journalism in hopes to one day write for a pro sports team. He can be contacted directly through twitter @rusty_ryskoski_.

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Comments (92)

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nostradanus's picture

May 06, 2020 at 07:14 am

This group has some promise after an off-season makeover. Kirksey was an excellent Linebacker for the Browns until a few unfortunate injuries. Kirksey was also a leader in the locker room which is an added bonus. Burks is a supreme athlete and has had some unfortunate and ill-timed injuries. Orin has the smarts and the skills to be a good player in this defense maybe the light bulb goes on in year three? I am really high on Martin after watching his game film. He really was an underrated player in this year‘s draft due to injury, he covers well, has great physical gifts and when he hits opposing ball carriers they go backwards! Summers was excellent on special teams this past season and I expect will be again in 2020. Bolton and Barnes are probably candidates for the practice squad.

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Slim11's picture

May 06, 2020 at 07:49 am

I haven't seen any film of Martin. I liked your comment "...he hits opposing ball carriers they go backwards!" Does he remind you at all of Desmond Bishop?

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nostradanus's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:17 am

He’s a better cover prospect than Bishop

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 06, 2020 at 07:36 pm

Barnes should beat out Burks.

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Tundraboy's picture

May 06, 2020 at 11:04 pm

I especially like the backwards part. Looking forward to seeing that. Physicality on both sides of the ball this year!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 06, 2020 at 07:23 am

Everyone has a great opportunity to be the #2 ILB depth guy since so far everyone who has played it stinks.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 08:19 am

We are in complete agreement again!

Summers has athleticism and upside but is raw and particularly so in terms of field awareness. He might have the best long term potential of the holdovers, but he was a raw project. Getting the football smarts is never a given.

Bolton did look good in preseason, but he is small and couldn’t hold up till the season. Injuries happen but it’s not a good sign. I also really don’t know what his upside is and whether he can do it when the gloves are off. He is worth watching, but far from certain.

Burks has failed to make it to the season twice (last year he was supposedly never fit enough to do much as an ILB). Moreover, he has at times looked very poor in practice. The instincts I thought he had when he came in have yet to show up. He is effectively little more experienced than Bolton and less than Summers!

I have no idea about our UDFA. He can tackle, but can he anticipate, read and tackle and can he cover with what range? If he has such attributes it might be between him and Bolton as the best back up cover and him and Summers as the best gap ILB behind Kelsey.

Martin is the one that gives me hope. He really only played one season as a traditional ILB having started as a rusher, then in a cover role. He got better and better at anticipation, tackling and coverage. Before his injury he looked like a complete ILB. Given the injury history of his competition not named Summers, i think his risk is lower. I could see him being our 2nd ILB this season, maybe with Bolton/Burks/UDFA and Summers as depth. But I would not be shocked if, health permitting it is Kirksey , Martin, Summers.

If I’m right about Martin and his late development allowed him to slip through under the radar, I would be a lot happier about this group. I think both he and Kirksey are more adept at reading and filling gaps than Martinez, faster and mor adept in coverage. In this scheme, that’s our hope for improved ILB play this year.

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dobber's picture

May 06, 2020 at 08:49 am

"Bolton did look good in preseason, but he is small and couldn’t hold up till the season. Injuries happen but it’s not a good sign."

Bolton currently lists as 228 lbs and is not much different in size from many of the ILB draft candidates (Patrick Queen, for example, is exactly the same size) fans have been drooling over the last couple years. His injury was an ACL...not so much a size-related issue. The Packers seemed prepared to roll into 2019 with him playing next to Martinez until he got hurt. If he's recovered when they open camp, I would not be surprised to see him as Kirksey's runningmate.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:47 am

Fair point, he is less undersized than I thought and the position is shrinking as coverage and burst to the hole takes priority.

That said, he definitely looks smaller, but he is shorter at just under 6 ft. I wasn’t a member of the Queen fan club. There is only 5 pounds between him and Kirksey, however, so I will concede that isn’t a massive difference. The new UDFA is 229. Summers and Martin about 240.

Overall, for durability purposes, I’m still of the view that Kirksey is on the smaller side in terms of mass and that I want the reach that comes with the additional height. That said, play can exceed measurables and Bolton did definitely look good in camp. Had he not gone down when he did, I might have more faith that he isn’t just a camp wonder and made to look good by the level of competition last year.

As to opening camp, it maybe that he and Kirksey open. I currently hope Martin and Kirksey will finish it. I know you like Bolton. I will be happier if he proves me wrong, even more so if it is a really close battle between two promising looking prospects.

Burks, Bolton and Summers are effectively rookies in terms of defense. There is not much in it in terms of experience excepting Summers’ ST.

I really hate to be dismissive of Burks. It’s not his fault he got injured.
It’s just that I cannot recall ever seeing him look good. It would be great if I’m wrong about that and him too.

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dobber's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:11 am

I wouldn't say I like Bolton more than I would say that he seemed to be the guy they'd settled on (for good or for ill) as being the best of what they had last August, but we never got to see what he could do when the games counted. I mean, we all have favorites, but I like guys who can play. I think they'd have a better chance with better DL play and depth.

I think the BEST thing for this team would be for the light to go on for Burks and for him to take hold of that position and run with it. It means that Martin (or Bolton) wouldn't have to jump in and be the man right away. The odds are likely against it...he's basically had no training camp in his first two seasons and I would assert it's stunted his development. He's not likely to get a full offseason program or a full camp this year with adjustments made due to the virus.

Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander: those were names I couldn't come up with earlier who match Queen and Bolton in terms of size/speed. But I think both of Jones and Alexander added good weight once they came to the NFL and Queen likely would, too. Bolton listed at about 220 at the Combine and 228 with the Packers...might be maxxed out.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:33 am

I don’t think we disagree. I’d love to see any of them take a step. I agree Bolton was on course to be the second ILB last year, deservedly.

There is another level. In the draft we took one and in UDFA more “tweener” hybrid type players in the Greene mold. Comments from the team suggest that middle of the fie ld DB roles are appropriate to true safeties. That reinforces my view that the big safeties are an attempt to add depth behind Greene. I am glad, because that was even more threadbare than ILB last year, however, if a couple of these show in camp, how does Pettine view the ideal balance between ILBs that can cover and safeties that can play close to the line? The answer affects both groups.

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CJ Bauckham's picture

May 06, 2020 at 11:21 am

Bolton also was hurt on that awful Canadian field, iirc; his injury may not have been so much about holding up vs just being unlucky

Edit: apologies, I notice dobber kind of touched on that already

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 06, 2020 at 06:41 pm

I am still hung up on GB's decision to waive-injure Bolton after his injury rather than just put him on the IR.

I guess it doesn't matter since it appears the Pack are going to let him compete in camp this year.

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 08:57 am

TGR, If he wasn’t going to be able to come back, was there any advantage to the team in waiving him as opposed to putting him on IR?

As far as I see it, by waiving him the risk was another team might grab him. They may well have believed that risk was negligible given his UDFA status and season ending injury.

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2020 at 09:58 am

Remember that you can't IR a player before putting them on the 53 without subjecting them to waivers. If you waive/injured a young player and no team claims him, he reverts to your IR. Most people don't realize that Spriggs was also on the Packers IR all last season...waived/injured. For vested vets, they're just waived and they become FAs. Absolutely right: there's always the chance someone could have claimed Bolton (or Spriggs), but Bolton's ACL made him a low risk.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 07, 2020 at 11:44 am

Right, but it doesn't make sense to me, bearing in mind that Bolton tweeted out that he had been on track as an UDFA to be the starting/#2 ILB but for this injury.

So, 3 options:

A. Keep him on the roster thru cutdowns, then put him on IR. Can be recalled, but GB pays him at the $378K split contract rate for as long as he is on IR. Packers retain rights to him for 2020 and 2021.

B. Put him on IR before cutdowns. Out for the season. He has an ACL injury and no one comes back in 5 months. Packers retain right for 2020 and '21. Pay $378K.

C. List him waived-injured. Slight chance some team is sufficiently enamored of Bolton to claim him and pay him the $378K, and gain his rights for 2020 & '21. If no claim is made, GB gains the right to offer an injury settlement, but if he's going to definitely miss the entire season, that is pointless. Is there such a thing as a minor ACL injury? I suppose Bolton could agree to 14-16 week financial settlement if he wanted to be a FA. If not claimed, GB has to pay the $378K, or still most of it under the bizarre possiblity that Bolton would take less money.

Summary: A & B = GB pays $378K and keeps his rights. Only C offers the chance of losing his rights for 2020 and 2021. It offers some slight chance of some other team paying the $378K for Bolton instead of GB. That makes me wonder if GB thought as highly of Bolton as many fans did.

Sticking way down in the comment: Mea Culpa - yes I liked Josh Jones. Okay, fine, %%%, Full Disclosure: he was my draft crush.

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2020 at 03:59 pm

"Sticking way down in the comment: Mea Culpa - yes I liked Josh Jones. Okay, fine, %%%, Full Disclosure: he was my draft crush."

I think there's a 12-step group for people like us.

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flackcatcher's picture

May 07, 2020 at 05:40 pm

I assume the Bears signed Spriggs only after a though medical. I wonder if his shoulder is chronic...

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PatrickGB's picture

May 06, 2020 at 04:19 pm

I agree Coldworld. I guess I am used to seeing 250lbs middle linebackers but the game has changed and they are more responsible for covering receivers of every size and type. I worry about some injuries because too often players try and come back before they are totally healed. Overcompensating after an injury often leads to a new one.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 06, 2020 at 08:02 pm

Bolton started longer than Queen in college and teamed with Murray in the scramble Defense of OU. He can cover as well as Queen.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 04:49 pm

"Martin is the one that gives me hope. He really only played one season as a traditional ILB having started as a rusher, then in a cover role. He got better and better at anticipation, tackling and coverage. Before his injury he looked like a complete ILB. "

This is ridiculous. Quite acting like you've been scouting himfor the past few years. If its something you read, give the source credit, instead of plagiarizing.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 06:56 pm

I don’t scout . I do watch some football and I have watched film, not that you know what I do or don’t watch. And I said it on the day of the draft. Glad you think I’m not entitled to express the belief that a player may be better than some think. I will possibly hold you to the same standard.

I reiterate what I said. Love the Martin pick, think he could be a steal and make a difference.

PS, reading more here you admit that you know nothing of him. Perhaps best to curtail your incredulity if you have taken no steps to do the same to your ignorance.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 02:47 pm

I agree w/ you on this. We haven't seen an impact ILB take a step in a long time. No one on the current roster certainly. That said, I still have hope that Burks can make some kind of impact, but that is certainly more hope than anything else. He's had very limited time on the field to learn ILB and the NFL. It took Bishop till yr 4 IIRC to really make a name for himself, tho he was behind 2 1st rd picks in Barnett and Hawk. Maybe Burks can show us some of his potential.

Summers is a complete unknown on D, but a quality ST player. We know even less about Martin. Bolton actually looked fairly impressive at time in TC last year.

Right now its a big Cluster F. Someone definely needs to step up and everyone needs to stay healthy at this position.

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NickPerry's picture

May 06, 2020 at 08:27 am

I loved the Kirksey pickup. That could really turn out to be a excellent signing for the Packers. Just staying healthy the Packers already have improved the position.

I'm really pulling for Burks to be able to stay on the field this year. Like someone mentioned already, Burks is pretty smart kid. Smarts and that athletic ability could go a long way helping to fix the position...BUT he has to stay on the field.

I also really like Summers. That kid is another on of Gutes RAS picks and is athletic as hell. He was doing some nice things in the preseason and also made some boneheaded plays. BUT as a 7th round pick in his rookie year boneheaded plays are usually going to come. If he can limit those then they may really have something.

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Handsback's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:04 am

Bolton was too small and too slow to be a NFL starter, yet last year he did everything the coaches wanted and more. He did the same thing at OK. The kid has football sense and unless the injury took away some of his quickness...he will be the other starter unless Summers makes a big jump. We also aren't talking and probably should about a hybrid player taking that position either and Greene is still on the roster.

The depth isn't bad, but how many of these guys will Green Bay carry? Also they had the opportunity to pick between Queen and Love and picked Love. If that pick doesn't come back to haunt Gutsey, it's because he knew that position was covered. Action speaks louder than words and I guess we will see this season if that ILB position has been improved.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:57 am

Queen is actually lighter by a pound than Bolton and only an inch taller. Both are short and light by ILB standards. Bolton ran the 49 in 4.53. Queen averaged 4.5.

I was not on the Queen bandwagon. The above is partly why. Queen is supposed to be good in coverage, Bolton looked very promising in that regard in camp. Based on the above, if Queen was a good pick, we may have got his clone a lot cheaper a year before and I will have to acknowledge that Dobber (earlier in this thread) is correct. If I am correct, darn glad we didn’t waste a first rounder on a Bolton look alike.

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dobber's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:15 am

They need a Levon Kirkland. Man, that guy was a beer keg on legs, but he could move, was bigger than some guards who tried to block him, and could cover. He was amazing to watch.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 06, 2020 at 07:49 pm

If he was around and played his style , they would have him fined and suspended for hitting too hard.

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dobber's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:16 pm

You don't have to do more to sell him to me! ;)

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 09:01 am

Truly, he would be an upgrade in talent on any team. Would bring an edge we can use as well.

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greengold's picture

May 06, 2020 at 12:03 pm

I didn't like either of Queen or Murray to GB for various reasons. Queen seemed limited in coverage and Murray, while a great story, also limited in coverage and really struggled getting off blocks. Sound familiar?

Had zero faith either player would truly upgrade our ILB position in a significant way... We'll see. I do prefer the players we did add there in Kirksey and Martin, as I see both as having higher ceilings to get the jobs done in run stop and coverage.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 06, 2020 at 07:47 pm

Queen was a one year wonder.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 05:20 pm

The reason Gutey picked a QB ovrr an ILB, is positional value. The Packers since Wolf took over almost exclusively use 1st round picks only on QB OT CB or Pass Rushers (DL or OLB/EDGE). Only a handful of times have they deviated (Mostly under Sherman).

That will continue under Gutey.

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PeteK's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:05 am

This position really worries me. Kirksey has missed the last two seasons and the rest are unproven. You have to add Raven to this list. At least we'll have a slew of possibilities and hopefully a few will shine.

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nostradanus's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:24 am

Desmond bishop didn’t start until I believe your three he was a special teams stalwart until then. I believe one or even two of these second and third year guys will emerge in 2020. Got to pay your dues in the NFL, I really think they will get things right this year at inside linebacker otherwise they would’ve taken somebody like queen if they thought it would transform their defense.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 06:19 pm

IIRC it was Dez Bishop's 4th season and he got a chance due to Barnett's injury. He was stuck behind Barnett and Hawk, both were 1st rd picks. Bishop actually played better than Barnett had been.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 06, 2020 at 08:05 pm

He was definitely better than Hawk.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 06:54 pm

Bishop was such a fan favorite. Made splash plays in camp. Played hard. If I recall he earned the ire of his coaches because he didn’t stick to assignments, just wanted to make plays. Eventually injury opened the door and, whether he learned to stick to assignments or the fans were right for once he was better than the incumbent.

A shame injury hit him. Was a fun player to watch while he was here.

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stockholder's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:27 am

The only guy that can save the LBs is CM3. If Gutey really wants to get serious about going to the Super-Bowl. CM3 is a must !!! Burks should never have been drafted, and Summers just needs to play. Kirksey isn't long term. He'll go where the money is. Let Martin Learn behind CM3. Not Burks! Take the pressure off the secondary to Tackle! It's just that simple.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:04 am

And Jordy to turn around the O?

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dobber's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:12 am

I hear he's added 30 pounds and wants to play TE...

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Somedumbname's picture

May 06, 2020 at 05:35 pm

Lol. I like that :)

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flackcatcher's picture

May 07, 2020 at 05:42 pm

I made that mistake too!

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Lphill's picture

May 06, 2020 at 01:58 pm

You are correct stockholder the Packers are the only team that does not have 1 quality starting inside linebacker, Clay would be the best option rather than us being embarrassed watching Oren Burks who is the starter.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 06, 2020 at 05:18 pm

I loved the Clay Matthews of five years ago. But that was...five years ago. At best he is a rotational backup at OLB. Or maybe as a backup run stopper in the middle. And my guess is that someone else will overpay to get him as a FA.

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stockholder's picture

May 06, 2020 at 07:27 pm

We have nothing but rotational Lbs at this time.

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flackcatcher's picture

May 07, 2020 at 01:35 am

Father time catches up with us all....

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 06:24 pm

Can't sign him if he doesn't want to play ILB. Hint... he doesn't!

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MarkinMadison's picture

May 06, 2020 at 09:46 am

I'd like to be optimistic here, but 3 out of the top 4 options at this position spent significant time missing games while injured last year. 2 out of the top 2 couldn't stay on the field 2 out of the last 2 years. That is just not good. At. All. I'll wager a fair amount that at some point this season Summers and Martin will be the top two active ILBs on game day. I get that the pickings were pricey in FA at ILB, and thin in the draft at ILB. But this position is a big gamble once again.

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Bure9620's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:05 am

The Packers simply do not value this position. Pettine would prefer an extra DB in the box, whether that is Raven Greene or someone else. Kirksey and Martin should be fine. I really think Z plays more inside at a "5 technique" on early downs, maybe not neccesarily with his hand in the ground. I expect Z inside more and Gary on the Edge.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 07:15 pm

Your correct. The Packers value the premium positions of QB, OT, CB and Pass rusher (DT or OLB). And they are right in doing so. Those positions affect games much more than the others. If you haven't noticed, you haven't been paying attention. Its been that way since Wolf took over as GM. Only Sherman deviated and that didn't turn out well for him or the Packers!

Whenever the Packers are drafting in the 1st especially and sometimes 2nd, they are likely to look at those positions (QB OT CB OLB) before any other positions. And the SHOULD! due the importance they have.

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Since'61's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:10 am

We are going into our 10th season with a big question mark at ILB? There ain’t no Nitschke in this crew. How well has that worked since 2011?

Can we find an ILB that can actually stay on the field? That alone would be an improvement. Then hopefully that same player can actually tackle earlier in the play than 5+ yards beyond the LOS. Having the speed to cover would be a nice to have as well.

Maybe if we put this entire group on the field simultaneously they could get the job done if they don’t fall over themselves and all become injured on the same play.

Kirksey is our best hope, but then there is that injury thing again. Another position group filled with hope, dreams and wishes as opposed to an actual plan. We’ll see who emerges if anyone does during the preseason and assuming there is a preseason at all. Stay well. Thanks, Since ‘61

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dobber's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:14 am

It seems like a position where they throw very limited resources at it and expect a revelation to fall into their laps.

It doesn't work very well for my students, either.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:37 am

Certainly in recent years. I’m less certain what they would like to do now because I didn’t think there were great options in the draft or in FA given out cap position. Perhaps we will see over the next year or two and stop trying to fill holes or reshape as we have done recently.

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Since'61's picture

May 06, 2020 at 01:36 pm

It’s just amazing to me that the Packers have been unable to find a solid player for ILB for so long. Nitschke was converted from RB to MLB, maybe we should consider that for Dillon or one of our numerous TE failures. It doesn’t seem like it should be this difficult.
Thanks, Since ‘61

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 09:12 am

I have to say that Martinez was at least solid and a better fit when he was drafted. Kirksey is, if healthy, more suited to this scheme and a good player. Perhaps he will start the upswing. Martin is unproven but a similar type. If Summers can develop in the mold of Bishop we may not be that bad.

It’s not that I disagree with your point, I just wonder if we aren’t beginning to draft and sign in the right direction. While I am highly skeptical of Burks, it is worth noting that his drafting does at least indicate intent to improve in Gute’s first draft, at a time when we had urgent needs galore.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:00 pm

Well lets see, they've used a 4th, a 3rd and 5th in the last 5 years. They've used resources. If you think they will be throwing a 1st or 2nd rd pick at the position, your probably deluding yourself, unless the ILB is the only player left from a higher tier of talent, they will continue (and rightfully so) to draft QB, OT, CB and pass rushers for the most part. They've been doing it this way since Wolf took over. Go back and look at all the drafts. With very few exceptions (mostly during Sherman years) they will continue to draft the 4 premium positions.

I thought your were a fan... Haven't you paid attention? We're going on 30 yrs now since Wolf arrived and it really hasn't changed.

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2020 at 07:21 am

We kept saying the same things about S a few years ago: unwilling to invest...then they took HHCD.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:21 am

220 lb ILB is a recipe for injury and/or getting pushed around.

300+ lb lineman coming at you with bad intent just doesn't work for 220 lb humans, things are gonna get bent and broken.

The concept of undersized ILB is just crap. You put 5 db on the field, and there are only 5 eligible receivers... do you really need another safety body type at ILB? Have the DB cover TE and RB that are quick/fast, not every team can put 5 shifty fast guys out in patterns. ILB can provide some cover ability vs the less than premier athletes that line up at TE, Hback, RB and still provide adequate run support, as I said, not every RB is Marshall Faulk.

This is a fundamental flaw in Pettines scheme. Play defense against run and pass, not just pass. Besides getting you embarrassed like in SF, it will get your players injured. Its just physics.

I was NEVER a Queen fan, he just too slight to work in an ILB roile in Pettines scheme and I will wager that any less than 230 lb guy in there is either ineffective (tackles 5-10 yds downfield) or gets injured in short order.

I may be ready to see Pettine join Dom Capers on the scrap heap if he cannot adjust his scheme to be an NFL defense that can defend both run and pass effectively. I hate to think of the damage done to the franchise with all of the draft capital used to select players that "fit" his one-dimensional pass defense only scheme if it doesn't pan out this season, the waiting for adequate results is over, it is time to perform or re-form.

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dobber's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:31 am

"This is a fundamental flaw in Pettines scheme. Play defense against run and pass, not just pass. Besides getting you embarrassed like in SF, it will get your players injured. Its just physics."

But this isn't just Pettine's scheme. There's a lot of teams doing this and hybrid players/small-fast ILBs are in vogue right now. Kwon Alexander, Patrick Queen, Deion Jones, Devin Bush, Deonte Bucanon...all these guys drafted to play that undersized ILB position. It's because of this that I think AJ Dillon will be a productive piece, but defenses will adjust.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:08 pm

Bucanon was drafted by AZ to play Safety. He failed at it, so they had him try the ILB spot that had been played by Daryl Washington (who was a Pro Bowl ILB). Bucanon wasn't drafted to play ILB. There was another one that was a pumped up SS that played w/ NYG at Safety but the Rams moved him to ILB, but his name escapes me.

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2020 at 08:32 am

Mark Barron?

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Tabin's picture

May 06, 2020 at 11:28 am

Kirksey. If stays healthy is going to be a top 5 ILB he can do it all.
Martin for what I read if healthy last season would not have been there in the 5th round. Hopefully he stays healthy and can play as good as many say he can.
Summers. I don´t think he has the skills to play 3rd downs he could be a good ILB against the run but nothing sure yet. If he gets assigned a gap he can close it well but he is asked to do to much he will get lost on the play and miss a lot of tackles. Limited player but reliable on what he knows.
Bolton showed a promissing set of skill last year before getting injured. I wonder why the guy was and UDFA.
Burks is a great athlete when healthy but not a good football player he is slow to read the play and not a very good tackler.
I think that Kirskey, Martin and Bolton are the better players of the group.
Lost completely my hope on Burks. I would like to be wrong on this one.

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Bure9620's picture

May 06, 2020 at 12:20 pm

Burks needs to show immediate growth when things start back up, if he is unable to even beat out a rookie in Martin and Bolton who is essentially a rookie by injury, he runs the risk of not even making the team, it may be time to cut bait, year 3 is when these picks needs to put it together.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 06, 2020 at 08:09 pm

Krys Barnes is the wild card vs Burks. More of an inside guy with cover ability.

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 09:24 am

Dobber put it more pithily, but this group is, barring injury, a free for all. I think there Is more competition than last year, but it’s no more proven.

Kirksey is a lock
Martin is probably a lock (5th rounder)
Summers is probable ( ST contribution)

Of the rest, Bolton May now have the advantage over Burks, but none of them have defensive experience worth a damn after Kirksey.

Any one of these could be ILB 2 on the basis of a strong preseason (if there is one). I think that they will keep 4, but that is not a given and likely influenced by what they think of the new depth at hybrid. There are several candidates to boost that and even some of these could maybe factor in both (Barnes, Bolton).

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BAMABADGER's picture

May 06, 2020 at 11:09 am

ILB and DT are the big ?? positions on this team. College tape of Kamal Martin highlights his poor ball instincts. He hesitates going to the ball carrier. This and his poor speed/quickness, and below average coverage skills indicates a special team playing career at best. Summers' development in year two is key. Burks is already an injury prone bust. Let's hope Curtis Bolton shows improvement. ILB appears to be extremely undervalued by the Pack Mgt. A huge mistake in MHO.

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Coldworld's picture

May 06, 2020 at 11:53 am

Completely disagree with everything you say about Martin on tape and pretty much any late career report, observation or analysis. He didn’t settle into the conventional ILB role till late yet learned to read, react and even cover very quickly from all accounts. Kid started as a QB, had to learn from the bottom how to play D and one by one got better in every facet. Late bloomer whom injury prevented fully showcasing how far he had come.

Great pick.

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murf7777's picture

May 06, 2020 at 08:52 pm

Agree coldworld, I really like his film....possible steal in the draft...fingers crossed!

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:11 pm

The guys that scout for a living disagree. They think he lacks instincts and coverage ability. Thats not me its from his NFL and CBS scouting reports!

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 09:36 am

No they don’t. Some of them do. Most of those seem to have reviewed him earlier. That’s why he may be a steal.

Since you have already written above that you know nothing of him, you can’t have read, watched or given it any thought if you are being candid. So why state a view? Doesn’t agree with your narrative?

I continue to be excited by Martin. I think he is a player who is developing fast and that he got overlooked by many because it came together late.

He is like Queen, a one year wonder in that sense. That is a caution, but this amateur thinks he is real. Seems some others do too. Frankly, you would think you would be happy if we were right.

I do have to admit that I liked Josh Jones, if not as much.

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2020 at 10:01 am

I loved the idea of Josh Jones when the Packers picked him. I think TGR did as well (but I might be thinking of someone else).

Just goes to show you I'd better not quit my day job... ;)

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 10:18 am

Too true!

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2020 at 10:32 am

I'll take that in the best possible light... ;)

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 10:44 am

Ha ha. You should. Enjoy your perspectives.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 07, 2020 at 11:46 am

I firmly plead the 5th!

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PDX_Packfan's picture

May 06, 2020 at 11:11 am

I just don't see Burkes being the answer. He just takes too long to diagnose the play. As mentioned above, they really need a thumper type to step up and pop guys at the line of scrimmage. Our best hope for that would be Summers (who also has diagnosis problems) and Martin.

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greengold's picture

May 06, 2020 at 12:51 pm

I'm just going to share what a former sports writer for the JS, and a dear friend of mine told me the night we took Kamal Martin:
___

"Kamal Martin! I know him. I don’t know what the scouts are saying but I’ve seen him blow up my alma maters, Wisconsin and Northwestern. He’s a pure athlete. Turnover-forcing machine. All over the field. Brother, you wanted an LB who can drop back in pass coverage, you got him.

Oh shit. I hated him. Haha.

I guess he screwed himself with suspensions and getting hurt, looking at the scout stuff. But when that kid is right, he stands out on a football field. It takes something to get me to notice a college linebacker who isn’t playing for Wisconsin or Northwestern. I’m fine with that pick and it being against conventional wisdom. Can’t wait to see him in green instead of maroon."
___

We were actually watching Day 2 of the draft together in a Zoom chat, and I was like, "WHOOOOO?!!!" btw, he also said his highlights are indeed representative of the player we drafted R5.

Watch those highlights. If THAT's what the Packers get from Kamal Martin on a consistent basis, look out.

Martin, 6-3 240, has shown those qualities of dynamic athleticism and instincts in both run and pass coverage which set the great players apart, while exhibiting a good knack for creating the hustle plays that I always look for in an ILB, or any defender: FF, FR, sacks, TFL, PDs & INTs. The volume of those plays just wasn't there with his limited playing time at UM, but I've come to learn that he did make many of them in limited reps. Anyone questioning Martin as our pick there, I can understand that completely, as I clearly did as well in the moment.

A lot of selecting a player in a draft for teams is how they project into a positive force in their system. From a pure metrics standpoint, Martin's height was in the 80th percentile (6-3), his hand size (10 1/8") in the 84th percentile and his arm length (34") in the 95th percentile. No recorded 40 time, but his highlights show great speed, especially straight line. Most comprehensive highlights I watched were in an article from thedailygopher.com pre draft. I've seen plenty of reviews to the contrary, but his highlights show much the opposite: good instincts, speed, tackling ability, ball skills and an innate ability to force turnovers. His size and play style remind me of two offseason ILBs I was coveting for GB in Lattimore (FA) & Dye (draft). If he works out from late R5, could prove a steal.

His off-field issues may have turned some teams away, but I believe Gutekunst and his staff did their due diligence there in judging his fit in this Packers defense. Sounds like he checks all the boxes, but in a relatively small sample size, which makes his availability in the 5th round more understandable. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kamal Martin win out that #2 starter slot next to Kirksey. If so, that, along with our FA DL signings should be a big improvement with stopping both run and pass over the middle of our D.

I dig the Christian Kirksey signing as well, in spite of his injury history. Every player signed this year in FA had an injury history, and while that merits pause as a legitimate concern, that is what made every signing affordable to GB under tight cap constrictions. His best years were working under Mike Pettine, and he is a total menace when healthy, as well as a great team leader. The Packers needed run stop, and Christian Kirksey brings that, along with a good understanding of how to best function within Mike Pettine's system in Green Bay. This was a good risk/reward signing, just like the others, IMO. I think "hunger" comes into play with a signing like. this. Have zero doubts he will fit in perfectly with the rest of the talent on board in this defense, every player to a man, hungry to win a ring.

Lots of great competition behind both of these players. While Burks looks like a total bust to me from R3 2018, maybe we see "player development" kick in, as with players at other positions. Never know... Looking forward to seeing how it shakes out and if we see real improvement in our middle D. I think we will.

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wildbill's picture

May 06, 2020 at 12:25 pm

My biggest concern this year about young players making a “jump” is with maybe no OTAs and probably limited training camps it will be difficult. I know all teams are in the same boat so maybe it’s a push. I would like to see Summers come on this year as I seem to remember he had good speed and showed up in the right place many times but his tackling was poor and I think tackling technique is something that can be improved upon. I go to a Lambeau game each year and am hoping that tradition is not in jeopardy.

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BAMABADGER's picture

May 06, 2020 at 01:32 pm

Unfortunately, no Packer D coach appears to emphasizes tackling fundamentals. This has been a decade problem. They rely on the infamous tackling donut which is useless. GB needs to draft defensive players that display good tackling technique in college. If they don't know proper technique after peewee, youth league, HS, and college football, it is a little to late to be teaching to "professionals". Watching some of the Packer players attempting to form tackle is embarrassing.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:23 pm

There isn't time to coach tackling in practice once you get to the NFL. Not to mention that padded practice is quickly being cut from practices by the CBA. HS and college are the only places players can actually practice tackling. Get used to it... Its only going to get worse.

You have to specifically draft players who possess that skill now days. The Packers tend to prefer athletes over the tackling skill.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 06, 2020 at 08:10 pm

Oick up another veteran in trade or cut-downs.

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Rudedawg67's picture

May 06, 2020 at 03:15 pm

It would’ve been nice if the GM would’ve wasted a fourth round pick to move four spots up in the first round to get Love when it wasn’t necessary and use that pick on another interior defensive lineman or middle linebacker or even a receiver.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:25 pm

Actually it was necessary to move up. Indy was trying to trade up from the top of the 2nd to get Love. Gutey had to move up to take him before Indy did it. Love wouldn't have been available at #30.

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Rudedawg67's picture

May 07, 2020 at 03:13 pm

Actually it was only rumor that Indy was going to move up and depending on which article you believe either Seattle wanted to much or Indy never made an attempt at all. With some of the needs not addressed in this draft this guy better be a Hall of Famer. I am rooting for him though.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 06, 2020 at 05:56 pm

Well IR should be well represented by this group.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 06, 2020 at 06:58 pm

Yes, that's my thought as well. Greene and Campbell have not been able to stay on the field playing that hybrid at 205 and 210 pounds.

So perhaps move up to guys who play at 225 to 230 pounds.

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Stroh's picture

May 06, 2020 at 10:40 pm

In other words small ILB? That's really what your getting at. I'm hoping that's the route the go as well.

Either way, Pettine and his scheme may need to be adjusted or it won't matter who's on the field. The Pettine/Rex Ryan D is based on penetration and disrupting the backfield (pressure on the QB) above all else. Its not based on gap discipline to stop the run and it certainly isn't a 2 gap D (like Capers was). The entire front 7 has to be forced to play w/ gap discipline and that is going to diminish the pass rush. The run D is Mostly a matter of scheme, not as much personnel.

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 09:51 am

I have written here before that I think you see an attempt to have more big safeties in camp this year. If you look at the draft pick and UDFA safeties, 200 plus is the norm. Other than Greene and Campbell, these were lacking last year.

We will see if any show promise, but they don’t seem in line with what Pettine is looking for in interior CB types. Of course last year arguably the main candidate hybrid managed to take himself out of town, so it may not be a change as much as a reassertion of their original intent.

It will also be interesting to see if Pettine views the 220 type ILBs as interchangeable with hybrid players. We have never really had enough depth, fit or adequacy to really understand how he would ideally like to use these positions. Perhaps we will now.

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blacke00's picture

May 07, 2020 at 07:52 am

As I recall, during last years preseason, Bolton I think played very well. I agree he probably would have made the team if not injured. If he plays at least as he did last year. He'll be a player.

Summers as I recall had a problem with tackling in the preseason. I think his time on special teams should have helped him. If so he'll be right there for a spot.

Burks? I'm not impressed. Both Summers and Bolton I think will eclipse him. I hope I'm wrong but I doubt it.

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2020 at 09:46 am

Someone can correct me, but the only "true" ILBs who were healthy week 1 for the Bears last season were Summers and Martinez, and Summers didn't play a snap on D (they'd traded for Goodson a couple days before, but he didn't play). Bolton got hurt later in the PS (as CJ pointed out above), and by attrition he was putting himself in line to start week 1. I'm not sure he would have earned the job...but I wanted to see what he could do against #1s.

As for Burks, I want to see what he can do if he can get through a training camp healthy. Not saying he'll light the world on fire, but he hasn't had a camp in his first two seasons, and it could make a difference.

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2020 at 10:29 am

Summers made some plays but also took horrible angles at times, more so than actual tackling, misdiagnosed others and missed assignments. It’s exactly as he was billed, athletic, but not yet developed awareness. That’s why he dropped.

Another othe knock was that he couldn’t cover. Actually, allowing for some issues reading plays, I thought he showed much more than I was lead to expect in this respect.

Overall, Summers looked good for a 7th rounder and appears to have upside but he is exactly the type of player that coaches aren’t ready to use because they don’t know if he can do what they and their teammates assume that they will. Classic Bishop objection. Hopefully Summers will overcome that but it may not be this year.

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