After years of the Green Bay Packers linebacker position being a weak point on this team, and if we are being honest, not putting a ton of draft or free agent capital into it, in one offseason, this position group has been reshaped.
Following an All-Pro season, the Packers re-signed De’Vondre Campbell to a five-year $50 million deal. Then with the 22nd overall pick, Green Bay selected Quay Walker.
Both bring an ability to play the run and the pass effectively, which will allow Green Bay to stay in their base nickel defense more frequently — which includes two linebackers — and will also make them less predictable. Last season with Krys Barnes on the field, it was somewhat obvious that the Packers were more so playing the run. With Henry Black, they were playing the pass.
However, as far as what the rest of the depth chart looks like, both in the number of linebackers kept on the 53-man and who those linebackers are, is very likely going to be determined by special teams play more than anything else. With Campbell and Walker, it’s not as if anyone else is going to really see much defensive playing time anyways.
Barnes is likely a roster lock because of the defensive experience he brings and he’s also playing on an inexpensive contract. But he could very well be someone who could become a core special teams player under Rich Bisaccia as well. He was on the field for only 125 special teams snaps in 2021 but could possibly assume a larger role this year after making two tackles while not missing any last season. While there have been ups and downs, for the most part defensively, he has been a strong tackler, and there are certainly several positive aspects of his game for Bisaccia to work with.
Ty Summers and Isaiah McDuffie both have special teams experience, with Summers finishing top four in special teams snaps in each of his three NFL seasons while McDuffie finished seventh in snaps as a rookie. For what it’s worth, by PFF’s grading system, Summer graded out much better in 2021 than McDuffie.
Ray Wilborn has been in the league for a few seasons but doesn’t have any career NFL snaps, and neither do undrafted rookies Ellis Brooks and Caliph Brice. Brooks was on the field for 270 special teams snaps at Penn State and Brice 189 at FAU. Both also posted decent 40-times, and that straight line speed will certainly come in handy on special teams—not to mention that each are sound tacklers as well.
Given how bad the special teams unit was last season and that this phase of the game is under new leadership in Bisaccia, playing time is going to have to be earned all over again. Perhaps more so than in years past, experience may not be as valued as everyone is learning a new system.
With that said, how each of these players not named Campbell and Walker performs on defense is, of course, going to matter. But with Campbell and Walker dominating the snaps, these final roster spots and how many roster spots are devoted to the position — four or five — will very much be determined by special teams performances in training camp and the preseason.
For some added context, in 2019 and 2020, the Packers kept four inside linebackers on the initial 53-man roster and they then kept five in 2021. Whether it be at linebacker or another position, whichever back-end of the roster player can emerge as a special teams contributor for Bisaccia will have the inside track to a roster spot.
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.