What Are the Packers Getting in Christian Kirksey?

The Green Bay Packers knew they were on a budget entering 2020 Free Agent. So much was evident with their signing of former Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey to replace Blake Martinez. Kirksey is the cheaper option, but will the middle of the Packers’ defense take a hit as they look to stretch their dollar?

Now comes another important question, exactly what kind of player are they getting in Kirksey?

Name: Christian Kirksey

NFL Seasons: Six

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 235

40 time: 4.58

NFL Combine: 1.59 10-yard split, 2.64 20-yard split, 4.42 short shuttle, 7.11 three-cone, 32-inch vertical, 10’2” broad jump, 16 bench press reps

Notable Stats:  Two career interceptions came in 2018 after playing just seven games. Led team in tackles in 2016 with 148. 11.5 career sacks and 30 tackles for loss. 

Injury history: It’s important to be aware of Kirksey’s recent injury troubles. He’s missed 23 games over the last two seasons, while Martinez missed only three games in his first four years. Although some may not have liked Martinez’s limitations, you can’t deny his ability to show up each game.

Play speed: He plays up to his timed speed when he’s operating in space. Kirksey has good closing speed in pursuit. He also does a nice job recognizing screens and rallying to the ball. Kirksey has good range when he is kept clean.

Play strength: Not overly big or strong, however, he’s a solid finisher as a tackler. Kirksey will struggle to disengage from blocks, though. Instead, relying on his athleticism and finesse. There are times, Kirksey doesn’t appear to have much of a plan for working through traffic and getting to the ball.

Mental Processing: Sometimes he will guess right, shoot a gap, and make a great play. Other times, he will try but find himself way out of position. Doesn’t always see things quick, Kirksey will be slow to react post-snap and get caught flat-footed. In coverage, he can be slow to pick up on route combinations.

Pass coverage: Kirksey moves pretty well for his position. Some may even mistake him for a safety at times. Loose hips and fluid footwork allow for effective breaks on the ball. However, his balls kils still aren't great and he’s a bit timid in zone in his willingness to allow things underneath. On the other hands, there’s a lot to like about his man coverage ability. He’s a good matchup for tight ends and running backs out of the backfield because of his size and speed. Kirksey also has the ability to carry vertical stems.

Run Stopping: The Packers are taking a hit here. He’s average in this regard compared to Martinez. Kirksey’s best seasons in production occured with some of the worst teams in league history. Sure, keep him clean, and he’s fine. However, ask Kirksey to make a play while taking on a blocker, and things can get dicey. Too often and too easily he loses leverage while playing through traffic. Kirksey might be too limited by average play strength, lack of block shedding prowess, and slow play recognition to make up for what Green Bay is losing in the middle.

Bottom line: Kirksey is great on and off the field. He’s a great teammate and leader. Fans will love him. As a player, he is a better athlete than Martinez. He’s faster and moves better in coverage. However, he doesn’t have the football IQ, which allowed Martinez to make-up for his athletic shortcomings. The injury thing is also worrisome. Right now, the Packers don’t have much of a backup plan unless you consider that to be Oren Burks. If healthy, Kirksey can offset the loss of Martinez, but he’s not adding anything outside of his athleticism. Overall, Kirksey fits best as a WILL linebacker playing in space. Because of that, don’t be surprised to see Green Bay look for a prospect early on during the 2020 Draft to better anchor the defense.

 

 

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

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Comments (55)

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 06:40 am

Blake Martinez for whatever reason just couldnt make a run fit to save his life 70% of the time last year. Ill still miss him but he wasnt worth 10 mill a year.

We needed to get better against the run. Garropolo threw less than 10 passes in a blowout. Kenny Clark has 0 help on the line and has even less behind him now to stop the run. We are going to be very sorry if we put all our eggs into Kirkseys basket.

Why not sign somebody like Dontari Poe, Ragland or Kendricks for cheap? You cant give up 300 yards rushing and get WORSE. Im not buying them trading up for or drafting Queen or Murray if one fell either. Id love if they did but dont think they will.

They were interested in bringing Goodson back and "had some discussions about" Josh Bynes. That at least leaves me hanging onto the hope that they will still make a somewhat significant addition at the position

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 23, 2020 at 01:50 pm

This guy, Kirksey, is head and shoulders over the scrubs you mentioned. The DTs were picked over right away in the free agency scrum. Not much out there, maybe Wolfe as a 3-4 DE but he has a history of recent injury. Looks like they approach DT/DE in the draft. If Pettine keeps his light front version of defense, they will be shredded even more this season. They need two new guys up front.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:39 pm

Where did I say somebody like Ragland was better than Kirksey? Ill tell you who Ragland IS better than, BJ Goodson - which is what position one of these guys would fill. If Kirksey replaces Martinez you should also replace Goodson because guess what teams are gonna run right at us early and often

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TheVOR's picture

March 23, 2020 at 04:33 pm

Threw 10 passes in an NFC Championship game, because a defense had ZERO ANSWER or enough ATHLETICISM to do anything about it. It was like watching the sixth grade bully pick on the class weakling, sitting on top of him, and the weakling is going fetal and crying whaaaaa... whaaaaa..

I'm not sure the 49ers needed to pass actually, GB had no answer whatsoever.

This isn't over folks, this team got it handed to them, that was like a film study for 2020 for any opponent to recognize what they need to do. We're not going to be better by subtraction at ILB, this isn't done, they need another blue chip answer in there, not just Kirksey. This isn't done, if they think it is, we got worse, not better.

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Tarynfor12's picture

March 23, 2020 at 06:43 am

Pure money move for GB. Whether GB gets more from Kirksey overall is up in the air. Unless he pops and stays healthy, the position loses and gains equal parts.

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Razer's picture

March 23, 2020 at 07:30 am

Yeah, I saw a graphic with the cost Martinez and Bulaga versus Kirksy and Wagner and the hit was roughly half. It truly is the business of football at play. I hope these guys stay healthy and play up to potential.

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Archie's picture

March 23, 2020 at 09:35 am

As much as many of us are begging for an offensive draft this year (no pun), it would not shock me to see Gutey use this draft to complete his D by taking a a DT and LB in the first two rounds. Heck, he could sign Poe too. Get the D fixed.

But we still need to give 12 one more explosive offensive weapon. Could trade 2021 #1 for 2020 #2 to nab a top WR one year early.

Oh yeah, and Delanie Walker is worth the gamble. CMIII is too. Poe, Walker and CMIII wouldn't count against our compensatory picks either.

Use R3 & R4 to get RB & OT.

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dobber's picture

March 23, 2020 at 09:47 am

You forgot a CB.

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Coldworld's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:37 pm

CB is a lesser need with the potential already on the roster. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that overlooked till very late if not after.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:19 pm

Tramon is 73 years old and King is in the last year of his deal.

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Coldworld's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:37 pm

Duplicate deleted

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taarons420's picture

March 23, 2020 at 11:45 am

Packers fans prior to every single season...
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.
Get the D fixed.

Why is it so hard for this f'ing team to field an effective defense.

I'm tired of it.
Stop banging our heads against the wall.
Just come to the realization that the defense (for whatever reason) is going to be average at best.

Go all in on offense.
Better chance of turning the offense around than fixing the defense.

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dobber's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:39 pm

I wonder if Vikings fans are saying the same thing about their OL?

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HankScorpio's picture

March 24, 2020 at 06:16 am

Maybe some people simply don't understand what constitutes the D being broken. Last year, the D led the change in beating the Vikings in Minny with a dominant performance. A few weeks later they laid an egg in SF, giving the team virtually no chance of advancing. The "real" defense was both. It's neither broken not bullet-proof. I would argue there is no such thing as bullet-proof defense in a league that has spent 20+ years altering rules to favor the offense.

Take SF, for example. KC put up 21 on them in the blink of eye to take the Lombardi away from them. I don't think SF has a "broken" defense but there is no disputing that a massive defensive failure cost SF dearly--the same cost the Packers paid in the previous game.

Bottom line is that in today's NFL, you need to be able to win a shoot-out or a defensive struggle. The Packers as currently constituted are much more capable of winning a defensive struggle than a shoot-out, IMO.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 24, 2020 at 02:01 pm

So, let's add fuel for the offense and get points in all four quarters. OT, WR ,power RB, CB with picks 1 to 4.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Poe is signing with the Cowgirls

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murf7777's picture

March 23, 2020 at 07:22 am

No disrespect to the writer but I’ll take what his prior teammate and ex Badger great says. Joe Thomas believes Packers got a 'real steal' in LB Christian Kirksey. He talks about his great attitude even when the team only won a couple of times in two years. Extreme hard worker and one of the hardest hitter he’s seen. Very smart and a leader of the D. He is also very active in mentoring others even if they were drafted to take his place. Football is much more then individual talent it takes all players on the team to be on the same page and adding guys with high level leadership like Smith’s and Christian go a long way in building a winning D and team.

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stockholder's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:01 am

Nice Breakdown! I like this signing. They didn't over -pay anybody. If he stays on the field, Gute won. No Rookie excuses. Arrow up! Get CM3 to replace Goodson, And were all set in the middle.

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Guam's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:12 am

Enough with the CM3 nonsense. The Packers don't have any cap space to afford him, he doesn't want to play inside, he is a better pass rusher than run stuffer, and he is 33. We need a better solution than CM3.

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stockholder's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:53 am

He'll sign for what they paid Williams. He wants to go out a winner. He'll play inside. Don't confuse it with agent talk. Pettine pulled Goodson. No Rookie will be as versatile as CM3. The solution is the DL. Something Gute has failed at. Signing Lowrey and letting Daniels walk was why they came up short. Gute had two drafts where a Dt should have been taken rd. 1. You must win in the trench first. Cm3 can solve 2 problems. Poor play at ILB. And drafting Failure's on the defense Line.

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Guam's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:23 am

The Packer run defense will only get better if we get interior defensive line help. Few ILB's play well with a 300 pound OG in their face. Kirksey is no better than Martinez shedding blocks and making tackles in traffic. Kirksey is a cheaper solution than Martinez, but he won't be enough unless we get some IDL help. Since the Packers are out of cap space and seem reluctant to cut Taylor, I hope the draft supplies a run stuffer.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:46 am

aside fron IDL help, they need ILB help still

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splitpea1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 11:48 am

Ditto. We need both. Whoever the Packers end up drafting, I hope they're as close to NFL-ready as possible. The thought of spending any more high draft picks on players that turn out to be only good for special teams makes me cringe.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:01 pm

Get better people in their personnel department. The buck stops there for the whiffs on high picks ( 2 ,3 4s).

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splitpea1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:25 pm

I'm all for that, at least on the defensive side of the ball. No complaints on offense, though--they've made a few mistakes, but for the most part they've done a pretty good job for many years.

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Lphill's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:42 am

Oren Burks will be our inside linebacker the great 3 rd round pick, let’s get a big body like Michael Pierce to stuff the run, never mind someone beat us to him, interesting how the writer nonchalant mentions Kirkseys struggles against the run, hey you get what you pay for.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:45 am

Pierce wasnt worth the money the Vikings paid

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Tundraboy's picture

March 23, 2020 at 11:05 am

Deleted

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stockholder's picture

March 23, 2020 at 09:45 am

The best shot is to draft Fotu, or Sign Suh. If they sign CM3 they won't need to draft a LB. Any Rookie will struggle. Kirkseys and Summers will do great if they get a Defensive Run stuffer. (Not BlackLock) Realistic: I See Reagor, Hurts QB , /Fotu DT , HighTower Wr, Dillion RB, If they draft Jackson or Jones Ots, Forget Hurts.

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Coldworld's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:35 pm

As did Martinez. This guy isn’t that bad against the run however, and is a lot better in coverage and getting ahead of plays.

The risk isn’t ability it’s fitness. Besides, I doubt any ILB is going to solve the run issue alone. We need a second competent ILB and depth at hybrid. I do not know what their plan is with DT, but I guess we are going to find out because Kirksey makes more sense with a stout run defense line in front of him.

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Handsback's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:45 am

There are several players on the roster that MAY help the ILB, if the Dline can keep the blockers tied up. As Guam noted above...once a 300 lb OG gets his hands on the ILB he's toast. The good ones keep it from happening. I don't think the Packer's first pick will be at ILB. Maybe the 3-5 round sounds more like it.
Thanks for the write-up Brandon!

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Leatherhead's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:49 am

Not as good as Martinez, especially if he cannot stay on the field. Not a total stiff, either. We saved some money. We’re probably going to use a high draft pick at ILB too.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:51 am

well said - although i'll believe the high pick on a LB when I see it

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dobber's picture

March 23, 2020 at 09:45 am

They're getting a more affordable stopgap until they can finally locate a more complete player in the draft.

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JerseyAl's picture

March 23, 2020 at 09:45 am

I don't think they will. Remember, the majority of the time in Pettine's defense there was a single inside linebacker on the field. More important would be beefing up the interior DL to give Clark some help.

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 10:10 am

As far as i'm concerned we still dont have that single ILB in just Kirksey

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taarons420's picture

March 23, 2020 at 11:48 am

My opinion on this... he only played 1 ilb because he only had 1.

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JerseyAl's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:21 pm

I think there is some merit to that, however, Pettine loves to flood the field with DBs.

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Coldworld's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:48 pm

I think that there is truth in both points if view. I do not think it’s an accident that Kirksey and Pettine have a prior connection. This suggests that Martinez was something of a square peg. I think Pettine would use better coverage types more if he had them.

At this point we don’t have depth at either ILB or hybrid. One or both need an influx.

As to DT, I’m beginning to wonder if the issue is a realization that Clark isn’t going to sign for a viable sum? If so all bets are off in both draft or trade strategy. I don’t see an adequate DT 2 on the roster right now. Lancaster has merit as depth but unless he was hampered in the late season, I don’t see him as an answer.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:15 pm

Maybe a late free agent signing and Two guys coming from this draft. Get a DT and DE in rounds three and five.
Get the OT and WR in the first two shots. If Fotu is there in the second ,bag him. Advocating for Benito Jones in the third?? Who knows the mind of the draft when you have guys like Ryan Pace running the show for a 'professional" football team. A lot of subjective points of view that fail to watch the film.

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splitpea1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:33 pm

I (and everybody else) hope you're wondering wrong about Clark, because if we can't re-sign him, our defense is REALLY going to be Swiss cheese. And if this was the case, I would think Gute would have signed another stopgap (nice pun) solution so we have room in the draft to take some offensive players.

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splitpea1's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:25 pm

I think both are important. If Kirksey gets injured, that leaves us with Burks--who also has an injury history, and if I recall your snap counts, gets most of his playing time on special teams.

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Tundraboy's picture

March 23, 2020 at 11:06 am

????

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lowcsp's picture

March 23, 2020 at 10:09 am

I don't think green bay will draft a conventional inside linebacker they will more than likely draft a hybrid such as zack baun or a saftey-linebacker jerremy chinn

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MITM's picture

March 23, 2020 at 10:44 am

Pettine is very close to Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard who played for Pettine w Jets and Browns. Im sure Pettine has been and will continue to pick Jims brain on Baun up until draft day

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Lare's picture

March 23, 2020 at 10:43 am

Martinez made a lot of tackles, but I read one statistic that showed the average of those tackles was 4.7 yards downfield.

Very simply, Green Bay needs to shore up the middle of their defense.

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Leatherhead's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:31 pm

Average. Better than half were less than that, and the average was increased by some longer runs.

If Jones rushes 9 times for 18 yards and then busts a 22 yard run, his average average is a respectable 4.0 even though 90% of his carries were for two yards. Same with Martinez.

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dobber's picture

March 23, 2020 at 08:26 pm

Bottom line is that, unless you run AT the ILB, his tackles are bound to be made past the LOS and not by a small margin. It's not just football, it's geometry.

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PackfanNY's picture

March 23, 2020 at 10:43 am

I am all for getting some defensive line help to clog up the running lanes. The problem is the avenue to do so is narrowing. The slowest players to develop are usually the big guys. For example, Keke barely touched the field last season. If they are counting on him making the 2nd year jump it really would have been nice to see him play some. The draft? If this position is slow to develop we won’t be counting on some rookie to play a lot. Well that leaves free agency or trade. Seems like we have been priced out of free agency and trades are rare. No one can deny our Achilles heel was stopping the run. We were absolutely gashed in the NFC Championship Game. One way or another this must be addressed. So far, it is fair to say it has not. However, Packers don’t play on Sunday. We will just have to wait and see what happens.

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dobber's picture

March 23, 2020 at 11:34 am

The old addage is that run-stuffing DTs aren't found, they're grown...meaning--just as you say--the best ones take time to develop. That said, there will be some hogs available post draft, yet. The best ones, the ones who can generate at least some push on the pocket, are disappearing now.

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albert999's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:35 pm

Because of the flexibility the Packers have with developing a future starter, NFL Network draft analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah recently picked the Packers as the best team fit for quarterback prospect Jordan Love in April’s upcoming draft.

Here’s what Jeremiah had to say about Love:

I won’t be shocked if Love goes in the top 10. I also won’t be surprised if he falls to the bottom of the first round. Grades are all over the place on the Utah State product. He is the most talented natural thrower in the entire draft. However, due to a variety of circumstances (losing a number of starters, dealing with a new coaching staff and scheme, etc.) his play dramatically fell off this past season. He will need some time to sit and develop, but the payoff could be huge.

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Coldworld's picture

March 23, 2020 at 12:50 pm

I agree with your take and the need for him to sit. I just don’t think he will fall that far given the lack of talent across the league

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taarons420's picture

March 23, 2020 at 01:46 pm

In.
A.
Heart.
Beat.

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WMA's picture

March 23, 2020 at 03:55 pm

Love to have Love

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Lphill's picture

March 23, 2020 at 02:19 pm

Get Clay back he was our best inside backer and he can still play off the edge.

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