The injury bug has already hit the Green Bay Packers are we are only 4 days into training camp. GM Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Mike McCarthy already have this task of possibly replacing Inside Linebacker Jake Ryan who started 12 games last season.
The speculation is that Jake Ryan will be lost for the season, but as of this writing, that has not been confirmed yet. The team does fear that Jake Ryan suffered a season ending injury on during Monday’s practice. Gutekunst and McCarthy have options to replace Jake Ryan. I would not expect Gutekunst to rush to the free agent market and bring someone in right away.
As Gutekunst took to the podium already in training camp, he preached patience, as he wanted to see how things would play out during camp. Plus, he wants to see if one of his young players could take hold of the position. They are very inexperienced at the inside linebacker position behind Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan. Currently behind them is third round draft pick Oren Burks, and undrafted free agents Greer Martini, Marcus Porter, Naashon Hughers and last years practice squad player Ahmad Thomas.
Here are some internal options to replace Jake Ryan
Previously under Ted Thompson the Packers have operated with a next man up mentality. With GM Brian Gutekunst preaching patience, the most obvious solution to replacing Jake Ryan would be Oren Burks. The Packers traded up to draft him in the third round of the draft. Burks is converted safety from Vanderbilt, so it still remains to be seen if he can handle the inside linebacker position. If he is able to grab hold of the position, he would give the Packers a very versatile and athletic linebacker opposite of Blake Martinez. He would be able to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield, something they have struggled with under former defensive coordinator Dom Capers. The big question with Burks is can he hold up against the run and pounding the inside linebackers take?
Move Clay Matthews to Inside Linebacker
Could new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine employ a similar strategy as former coordinator Dom Capers did and move Clay Matthews to inside linebacker? Now linebacker overall is a position that the team is extremely thin at. Moving Matthews inside would require players such as Kyler Fackrell and Vince Biegel to take giant leaps forward during the pre-season. They could play Matthews on the inside in various packages and not have him as the regular starter. Again, they are counting on young players to take a step forward for this plan of action to be successful.
Play 4-3 on early downs
New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine could opt to play his 4-3 defense on early downs. They have depth on the defensive line to be able to deploy this strategy. Nick Perry can play on the end, Matthews play opposite him and roam the field a little bit. Then Blake Martinez would man the middle. Jake Ryan has proven to be a quality run stuffer, something that Martinez is going to have to pick up more of. In the past the Packers played mainly in their nickel packages so that is another option for Pettine.
The Packers have other options to fill the void of losing Jake Ryan and that could be going the free agency route. This probably will not happen until later on in training camp after Gutekunst analyzes what he has. Depending on how the secondary shakes out, they could play Josh Jones at the inside linebacker position as well.
The injury bug struck early in camp so they have plenty of time to figure out how they will line up defensively.
Anthony Haag is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He has been a Packers fan since the day he was born and truly bleeds green and gold. He makes annual visits to Lambeau Field and has attended his fair share of games. You can follow Anthony on Twitter at @anthony_haag