Blake Martinez Impressive in OTAs, but Don’t Count out Barrington

ESPN’s Rob Demovsky released an interesting article on Monday wherein he highlights the Green Bay Packers’ fourth round pick Blake Martinez. The rookie inside linebacker has been taking all of the snaps with the no. 1 defense due largely to the vacancy of Sam Barrington who is still recovering from a foot injury suffered last season.

McCarthy praised Martinez stating that, “”He looks very comfortable. I think he’s done a really nice job of transition from the base defense to sub defense, his command, the echoing of the calls. He’s very bright. Quick. And he definitely is a very instinctive player. He’s off to a good start.”

This has lead to talk of a camp competition between Barrington and Martinez, but it seems more likely that the competition will truly come down to Martinez and second year player Jake Ryan. Barrington has fulfilled more of a thumper type role in the middle. Martinez, on the other hand, was one of the better coverage linebackers in college football last year. His first priority should be taking over the Dime linebacker position from Joe Thomas.

Jake Ryan showed some flashes of instinctive play and a nose for the ball in his rookie season, but he certainly doesn’t appear to be as adept in coverage as Martinez. The question is how Martinez can play against the run. The two players have a similar build, but if Martinez can hang with Ryan in early down situations, he may be able to edge him out for the starting position. Of course, “starter” for the Green Bay Packers has more to do with who gets the most amount of snaps rather than who is listed as first on the depth chart. Dom Capers’ defense utilizes players according to their abilities in different niches in varying packages and sub-packages.

All of this is to say that fans shouldn’t expect that Barrington will immediately be fighting for his job. Certainly the Packers will start whoever gives them the best chance to win on the inside, but in his short career Barrington has shown the kind of aggression and tenacity that the Packers have always needed on defense. He’s also better acquainted with the defense than either of the young guys, and he also showed some ability to rush the quarterback from the inside.

Inside linebacker will be an exciting position to watch during training camp, but given the differing skill sets between Barrington and Martinez as well as Ryan’s fair but not great rookie season, I think that it’s too early to assume that Ryan has a starting position locked up and that Barrington is the one pitted against Martinez for the second starting spot.

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Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.

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