Raven Greene Was Certainly Missed Last Season

In the Mike Pettine defense, Raven Greene plays an important role and it was quite obvious that the Green Bay Packers missed his presence last season. 

Despite Raven Greene having just one start over the first two years of his NFL career, he is clearly a valuable member of this Green Bay Packers' defensive unit. Unfortunately, he's been bitten by the injury bug each season.
 
After making 42 starts over his final three years at James Madison, Greene has managed to appear in only 10 games, with one start, as mentioned above, during his time in Green Bay. 
 
However, in Mike Pettine's defense, which according to Sports Info Solutions, utilized six or more defensive backs on 52 percent of their total snaps in 2019, Greene's role as the dime linebacker is surely an important one. 
 
Filling this hybrid linebacker/safety role isn't an easy task either. It requires someone who can do a little bit of everything while also having an understanding of the entire defense as well. Covering tight ends and running backs, providing help against the run, and being an effective blitzer are all responsibilities of the dime linebacker. 
 
And when it comes to Greene, although it's been a small sample size up to this point, he's shown that he has the instincts and intelligence to thrive at this position. 
 
Before Greene was sidelined for the remainder of the 2019 season, he played about six quarters of football against Chicago and Minnesota. During those two games, he would take 70 defensive snaps and totaled six tackles, three stops, one pressure, and allowed just 3.5 yards per catch on four receptions.
 
Once again, this is a small sample size, but Greene's stat sheet illustrates his ability to do a little bit of everything. And when he was sidelined with an injury, it was evident that he was missed in the middle of this Packers' defense. 
 
While the Green Bay defense was much improved from what it had been in recent years, there were still a few areas that caused problems. One was that this secondary was prone to giving up the big play, in which the players and coaching staff both acknowledged that miscommunications played a significant role in this issue. 
 
But perhaps with Greene on the field, a few of those plays don't take place. In a recent Zoom call with reporters, when asked about Greene, Matt LaFleur specifically mentioned his ability to communicate on the back-end as something that this defense was missing last season. 
 
Another area of improvement for this defense is, of course, their play against the run. At a rocked up 212 pounds, Greene brings athleticism but also a more physical play-style closer to the line of scrimmage. This allows him to plug holes while providing another big body at the second level.  
 
Lastly, more often than not, we saw tight ends give this Packers' defense fits over the middle of the field. George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, Darren Waller, and Zach Ertz all have big days against this defense.
 
But with Greene's athleticism, he is a better coverage option for tight ends than what a linebacker would be, while his size and physicality won't allow him to get bullied around either. 
 
I just don't believe that it is a coincidence that these three areas that Green Bay needs to improve upon are also three areas that Raven Greene can provide help with. 
 
Now with that said, if the Packers had Greene last season, are all big plays eliminated, is their run defense top-10 in the NFL, and do they stop George Kittle? That's not what I'm saying at all, but they are certainly better with Greene on the field. 
 
Maybe instead of giving up 15 plays of 40 or more yards - which was the fourth most in football by the way - it's 11. Or maybe Greene makes a stop on third down or breaks up a pass that gets the Packer offense an extra possession. 
 
For a team that was one game away from the Super Bowl, it's little things like that that can turn the tide of any game. And while I'm not suggesting that Greene can do it on his own, we are certainly going to need to see improvement from others like Rashan Gary, Kingsley Keke, and Jace Sternberger, to name a few; his presence will provide this defense with a boost in key areas.
 
As the old saying goes, your best ability is availability, and Greene still has to show that. However, what we can't deny is that the Green Bay Packers missed Greene and his versatile skill-set last season.  

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (24)

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splitpea1's picture

August 07, 2020 at 01:25 pm

Great pickup as long as he's on the field...but that's been the problem. Where's the next man up here? Giving up big plays in the secondary, especially to the tight end, has seemingly been an issue for a long time.

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Bearmeat's picture

August 07, 2020 at 01:41 pm

Even if he's unproven over a long period of time, Raven Greene can help the Packers back 7 for sure. If for no other reason, every other coverage ILB they have on the team sucks. (and yes, that's how he was used)

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Archie's picture

August 07, 2020 at 02:15 pm

Drop-off in defense after Greene left with injury last year was palpable. Welcome back Raven!

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Stroh's picture

August 07, 2020 at 02:54 pm

I fail to see how a 212 lb Safety qualifies as "another big body" for the 2nd level. Its still a very small body for the 2nd level. Maybe Greene would have helped, but he certainly isn't the answer you seem to make him out to be. The Packers need Burks, Martin or Bolton to become the 2nd LB or they are going to continue to have to play very Small on the 2nd level.

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Coldworld's picture

August 07, 2020 at 06:06 pm

I agree that the role Greene was asked to fill last year will shrink a bit if one of the ILB 2 candidates proves his mettle. That said, the core Greene role still exists in this D and is likely here to stay. I do not think it’s an accident that the team stockpiled large safeties and very small linebackers in the late draft and UDFA.

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Stroh's picture

August 08, 2020 at 09:28 pm

No it wasn't an accident if that's what they did. That wasn't my point tho was it? The author said the 212 lb Safety was a bigger body for the 2nd level. A 212 lb safety in no way qualifies as a big body among the LB does it?

Greene has a role but it would be better if a true ILB, even a smallish one like Bolton could take it. 230+ is a hell of alot bigger than 212.

They've been trying to find an ILB that has sideline to sideline speed and can cover for a loong time!

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Oppy's picture

August 07, 2020 at 06:32 pm

Average weight of NFL safety is roughly 200 lbs.

At 212 lbs, he's the same weight as Eric Berry, heavier than Polamalu, Ed Reed, only 2lbs lighter than Harrison smith.. etc, etc.

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Stroh's picture

August 07, 2020 at 07:14 pm

While that may be true. Safety is the 3rd level. The hybrid ILB role is the 2nd level. And having a 212 lb safety playing ILB makes the defense pretty damn small.

I would say thr average FS is about 200. But the average SS is probably closer to 215-220.

Either way playing a safety at ILB doesn't give the 2nd level a big body in any way, shape or form.

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Oppy's picture

August 08, 2020 at 05:33 am

If you are pulling a LB off the field to play the safety, you're correct.

If you are playing one of the two safeties in the box in addition to the lbs, you are adding another body.

Safeties engaging in run support is nothing new. It's a proven tactic that has been used for decades.

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Stroh's picture

August 08, 2020 at 09:46 pm

Duh. Safeties in run support goes way back to even the Lombardi days. The point is that a 212 lb safety playing ILB is in no way a bigger body on the 2nd level. But this isn't a case of moving a Safety into the box (as an extra defender), its a matter of taking an ILB off the field and putting a Safety in his place. And yes I do know why they are doing it!

The Packers have been trying to find an ILB w/ sideline to sideline speed and coverage ability for a very long time now. But they want one that also has an impact in the running game.

Could that be why the Steelers jumped to #10 ahead of the Packers in order to get Bush before the Packers would have drafted him? Quite possiible.

Any time you take an ILB off the field for a safety, it makes the 2nd level quite small.

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Oppy's picture

August 08, 2020 at 06:51 am

For what it's worth, since I'm up and don't have anything to do for the next few hours, I went through every team's roster.

Most teams are carrying between 4-6 safeties on their roster during camp. Of all safeties in the NFL actively on an NFL training camp roster at the moment, only 8 weigh 220 lbs or more. There's another 5 that weight more than 215. It should be noted that only 2 or 3 teams differentiate between strong and free safeties on their rosters. About the same number of teams don't differentiate safeties from DB's at all. So my numbers are for all the safeties and include heavy DB's which I assume would be playing at safety.

Side note, of those 13 safeties over 215lbs, 5 of them reside on two teams: the lions (220+:Miles Killebrew, Jayron Kearse, over 215: Bobby Price) and the Falcons (220+: Ray Wilborn, 215: Keanu Neal).

At any rate, that's 13 total safeties over 215lbs in the NFL. Training camp rosters are carrying between 4-6 safeties. If we low-ball the number of safeties and say there's only 128 safeties in the nfl (I think it is more likely to be somewhere around 140-150 during camp), then 13/128 x 100 = ~10.2% of all NFL safeties weigh more than 215 lbs. during training camp.

If you want to imagine that half of the total players are strong safeties, and all of the heavies are strong safeties, we're up to 20.4%. That being said, not all of these players are going to make the final cut and only about 64 are going play primarily strong safety during the season.

Any way you slice it, the "average" strong safety in the NFL is not 215-220 lbs. The perception of the SS as being a massive build difference from the FS is just that, more perception than fact. There are notables in history, Kam Chancellor probably the most obvious of the large Strong Safeties, also guys like Lynch. But by and large, some of the most vicious hitting SS's were guys who played between 200-210 lbs.

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PeteK's picture

August 08, 2020 at 03:00 pm

I know it's a bit more than one game, but 7 tackles shows something. He might be 212 lbs , but those guns can put a hurting on RBs.

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Stroh's picture

August 08, 2020 at 09:52 pm

Well thanks for looking that all up. But you know what? Its still a Big WHATEVER. All that time put in to dispel that I thought a SS was closer to an average of 215-220? Really???

BTW a large part of the reason the average SS is now closer to 200 or whatever it is, is that teams use SS in coverage, particularly man coverage alot, whereas the FS is still the deep roving Safety.

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NickPerry's picture

August 09, 2020 at 06:39 am

Thanks for the breakdown Oppy...Nice job! I know you mentioned at the top of the comment you didn't have anything else to do at that early hour of the morning, but after reading Strohs comments in response, it just reinforces my feelings on arguing with Stroh...Why bother? He's always going to be a smart ass and he's always going to want the last word. Still can't believe Al let him back on ... Again!

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PeteK's picture

August 09, 2020 at 04:59 pm

It's all right, it adds color and hue.

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Stroh's picture

August 10, 2020 at 08:21 pm

Maybe you should shut your pie hole and mind your own business! I wadnt the one arguing he was. JA.

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flackcatcher's picture

August 07, 2020 at 02:59 pm

The Packers were good against the soft backside voids last year. What Greene did was allow Pettine to Gap both Smiths inline. That both players are strong and quick enough to both rush/blitz and fall back in coverage made Pettine's defense hard to read at the line. Greene's ability to squeeze down the backside in run coverage is special, and what made Pettine's 3-5 go. Until Greene is back on the field, we won't know if he is the same kind of player he was last year. And Pettine might go away from the 3-5 now with all those hybrids in the LB/DE he has in his defense. (It would not surprise me one bit if Pettine lines up with a 1-3-7. Man really is a Mad Scientist...)

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Mcdaws's picture

August 07, 2020 at 05:11 pm

I loved wjat he could do, I hope someone steps up, if 2-3 make a progression- who would you have for the biggest impact and how much would it help? I would love 2-3 bg jumps, it could take us over the top

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The_Justicar's picture

August 07, 2020 at 07:07 pm

He has hardly played at all in his time with the packers. Like a lot of nfl players lots of potential and expectations...that is all he is at this point. I guess he was missed last year but not truly sure how much since he has yet to actually show he is a difference maker.

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GLM's picture

August 07, 2020 at 08:24 pm

The thing you have to like about Raven Greene is the instincts and read/react are there. You could have a guy who is 240', and runs a 4.3, but if he doesn't know what's going on, what good is he? If you do find that guy, odds are you were picking in the top 5...lol

I wouldn't mind seeing him about 10 pounds heavier, but if that would affect his play speed, then that wouldn't work in a run-support role. I only worry about his durability. I think he's a very good football player.

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Adorabelle's picture

August 07, 2020 at 09:54 pm

So Raven Greene and Kamal Martin are looking to play that safety/linebacker spot opposite Kirksey? Seems an upgrade over last year but its potential and no real proven performance yet. You would think the Packers could develop plans around their solid edge and defensive backfield to protect their softer middle. Lets hope they don't get so badly schemed out of position and that the combination of Kirksey, Martin and Greene can at least keep the plays from exploding for 50 yards.

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CoachDino's picture

August 07, 2020 at 11:10 pm

IMO - Great article... One - of the reasons for surprise in the draft is the lack of knowledge by us fans of just these situations. I viewed LB, WR, DB, DL, TE for example to all have similar circumstances in that scheme fit personnel are on the roster

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ricky's picture

August 09, 2020 at 12:57 pm

Is it just me, or are there a lot of media members who are trying to offer rationales as to why Pettine's defense has been, at best, adequate? The two times the Packers played the Niners, they got blown off the field, and the defense looked terrible in both games. That once it was through the air, and the second time on the ground is especially depressing. Is Pettine the best DC for the Packers? Or is it time to consider a change in strategy and a new face as DC? This could well be a "make or break" season for Pettine. And if he was let go, it's very likely he'd be a position coach for another defense, and never be a DC again. Hater or realist?

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CoachDino's picture

August 10, 2020 at 02:30 pm

Time will tell... Pettine's has done nothing but improve the defense over his tenure. Fact!
That same Defense was dominated both Off and Def as you pointed out against SF... Fact!

IMO the SF games are more to do with Personnel Ability and Poor Personnel Execution. Both of which I "Hope" Improve this year.

Statistically the Packers defense was pretty good last year.

Unfortunately when you get embarrassed in the biggest and last game of the season it is going to bring the heat. Overall. I doubt Gutey and most NFL teams feel the same way about pettine DC performance with the Packers as many of us Packer Fans. Just my opinion as I can't read minds

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