Of all of the issues that afflicted this Green Bay Packers’ team in 2018, perhaps the most egregious was the overall play from the safety position. As a result, midseason the Packers had to sign Ibraheim Campbell off of waivers who would end up playing in only three games for Green Bay before an injury ended his season but he was one of the bright spots at safety.
In fact, Campbell made such a big impact in that short time that the Packers re-signed him over the summer. Unfortunately, he has spent most of his time since then on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), still recovering from his torn ACL.
However, the Green Bay Packers received some good news recently as Campbell was back at practice and could rejoin the team in the upcoming weeks, which would provide some much-needed help to this defense.
As good as this Packers’ defense has been this season, they’ve struggled in two major areas. Defending the run and defending the middle of the field, particularly against tight ends.
We’ve seen Zach Ertz of Philadelphia catch seven of eight passes for 65 yards, Darren Waller of Oakland go for 126 with two touchdowns and just last week, Travis Kelce of the Chiefs would average nearly 16 yards per catch with a touchdown.
Meanwhile against the run, Minnesota went for 198, while Denver totaled 149. The following week we saw 176 yards from Philadelphia, then Dallas with 120, and Oakland went for 155. On the season, the Packers give up 123.8 rushing yards per game, the ninth most in all of football.
A lot of these issues simply have to do with mismatches. Coverage just isn’t a strong suit of linebackers Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson, while safety Will Redmond can struggle against bigger, more physical receiving targets.
As far as the run game goes, oftentimes in their normal defensive lineup Mike Pettine will utilize three safeties and that gives the Packers a smaller defense which in turn can make it easier for opposing offenses to run the ball on them.
Now, the point of all of this isn’t to say that the return of Ibraheim Campbell is going to turn these defensive deficiencies into strengths, but his presence should certainly help.
For one, Campbell is versatile which is precisely what Pettine wants in his defenders. Last year in Green Bay, Campbell lined up in coverage out wide, as the free safety, and down in the box where he took over a third of his total snaps from. And down in the box is where he will make his biggest impact in 2019.
Since his days at Northwestern, Campbell has been regarded as a physical player and a very good tackler which we saw on full display in 2018. During his three games with the Packers, Campbell totaled a whopping 18 tackles and always seemed to be around the ball. He was also very good in coverage, allowing just three receptions during that span for only 20 yards.
As I previously mentioned, Campbell isn’t going to turn this Green Bay defense into the 1985 Bears, but his coverage ability coupled with his physical nature in the box will be a welcomed sight. And hopefully, he can give the Packers that defensive presence that they haven’t had since Raven Greene was injured.