Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez Are Quite the Duo

AJ Hawk and Brad Jones were the last two Packers who resembled any type of “stability” at inside linebacker. In 2013 the two combined for 202 tackles. Numbers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has not seen since. After Jones’ play wilted away and AJ Hawk grew old, the likes of Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan were next in line. Barrington showed early promise, but a foot injury ended his time in Green Bay. That is when the Packers selected Blake Martinez in 2016 to help with the rotation. Meanwhile, Ryan was now a regular down player. Now, entering the 2017 season, it appears Ryan and Martinez are here to stay as one the youngest starting linebacker duos in the NFL.

Prior to the secondary, inside linebacker was the most discussed deficiency of the Packers defense. This is no longer the case as Ryan and Martinez get more acclimated. They could be the future of the linebacking core in Green Bay. Thus, Packer backers better get used to watching two former 4th rounders chase down running backs and trying their hand against tight ends in coverage.

With a combined age of 48, Ryan and Martinez are the youngest starting 3-4 inside linebackers in the entire league. The sky is the limit for these two barring injury. They are also the reason the Packers did not select a single inside linebacker in the 2017 draft.

Jake Ryan started 10 of the 14 games he appeared in during the 2016 season. Martinez was good for 9 out of 13. Both were opening day starters while Martinez even wore the headset helmet as a rookie. Likely the same case for 2017 as well.

Their numbers do not jump off the page, however their solidarity does. Ryan logged a PFF grade of 76.4 which ranked 42nd out of all linebackers. Martinez held his own in the run game with a rating of 75.7. The highest among any rookie.

Yes, Martinez saw more instant success than Ryan, however Ryan was second on the team last year with 82 tackles. More than Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who started every game.

It is perplexing to think that Martinez may have more potential after making 69 (45 solo) tackles despite playing only 42% of defensive snaps. His numbers compare favorably to that of Jets rookie Darron Lee who was the 20th pick overall. Lee started and appeared in the same amount of games as Martinez, but played 62% of the snaps. Lee recorded 73 total tackles with 45 of them being solo.

If Ryan and Martinez continue to progress as run stoppers and improve in coverage, they can develop into one of the best inside linebacking duos of all 3-4 defenses in the NFL.

 

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Brandon Carwile was a cheese head at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. Brandon graduated from Longwood University in 2016 with a degree in mass media. He has covered the Packers for over a year and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @BShmee.

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  • Nick Perry

    Martinez was widely criticized last season because of his pass coverage. The kid was a 4th round draft choice playing and calling the plays for one of the most complex defenses in the NFL. Just being able to start week one, call the defensive plays, and do as well as he did tells you just how smart this kid is.

    I expect Martinez to improve this year just as Ryan did last season. It took Desmond Bishop how many years and an injury to Barnett to see the field? This defense is extremely young with just a sprinkle of veterans throughout the lineup. With a little luck on the injury front I expect them all to grow and get better, especially the ILB.

    • Brandon Carwile

      Agreed. Thank you for reading.

  • Tj Coon

    I like it. With Martinez’s ability to handle the headset his rookie year and his dedication to his health, I see a big jump from year 1 to year 2. With Ryan seeming to come into his own a little slower, this might be the year where he puts it all together and the duo will become a strength of the team. I for one am excited for this defense!

    • Brandon Carwile

      Exactly!

  • James C. Drumheller III

    I really like this years additions on defense. TT made the secondary priority one. I believe King will be an opening day starter at corner and Randall the other corner.Then look at the possibilities at safety with Clinton-Dix now a pro bowler and Burnett and Josh Jones both seeing playing time at multiple positions.I think Montravius Adams will be in on passing downs putting pressure on the QB.That goes for Biegel too coming off the edge. I predict a much improved defense in all three phases. GO PACK GO!!!

    • Brandon Carwile

      I agree 100%. Burnett also played well and needed it because he is now in a contract year. If Brice proves to be formidable then Burnett may be gone.

  • Ferrari Driver

    I like them both; they will likely be good solid football players for the Packers. They are both limited with pedestrian speed and chances of being much more than solid starters during the ensuing years is unlikely.

    However, guys like these are the meat and potatoes of a good football team and are needed with a few others who are difference makers like Aaron Rodgers to win championships.

    • Brandon Carwile

      Definitely. They won’t make any pro bowls but they don’t have to for this team to win it all.

  • Dan Stodola

    Ryan and Martinez give the Packers a couple good ILB on run downs. When it comes to passing downs, particularly nickel, Burnett will likely be one of the ILB and in dime I actually see Burnett and Jones both playing pseudo ILB roles. They can go w/ 4 Safeties on the field on obvious passing downs. Clinton-Dix and Brice deep while Burnett and Jones play the shorter zones or match up w/ TE and RB in man coverage.

    I really don’t expect either Martinez or Ryan to play more than 50% of snaps. The NFL is a passing league and Safeties are better than ILB in coverage.

  • James C. Drumheller III

    I really like the first four picks on defense this year. I believe we got not one but two starters possibly in our much needed secondary. We also got two guys who can put pressure on the QB from the front seven. Our offense is going to be so explosive we just needed our defense to get off the field on third down more often then not. I’m excited and I hope others will be also. GO PACK GO!!! Let’s stay healthy this year.

  • Old School

    I like Ryan and if he stays healthy he’s a good piece of the puzzle. Martinez was looking overwhelmed at times and you’d hope an offseason will help, plus the rookie Jones in clear passing situations and even a few snaps from CMIII.

    We haven’t had that ‘man in the middle’ on our defense for a long time.