Packers have high hopes for inside linebacker group

The Green Bay Packers started rookie minicamp last Friday, and many of those rookies will be counted on to make an impact right away in the upcoming 2021-22 season.

While rookie-play will undoubtedly be important, I think there’s one specific position group that’s been overlooked in the offseason chatter. And I think it’s one that will hold a major key in the success of the defense – and of the overall team.

The Packers will need to see a major jump from the inside linebacker position in 2021.

The group – consisting of Isaiah McDuffie, Oren Burks, Ty Summers, Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin – is a very talented bunch. Barnes and Martin showed flashes of being great last years in their rookie seasons.

However, consistency is key.

In Martin’s case, he stood out during training camp and impressed when he was on the field. He’s a physical, attacking linebacker with playmaking ability.

An injury set back an impressive season and he struggled to catch up later on in the year.

When the season was all said and done, Martin actually finished as the second-highest graded rookie linebacker in the NFL according to PFF. Many Packers fans were actually hoping to see him on the field even more towards the end of the season.

As an undrafted free agent, Krys Barnes actually started in Week 1 and really came on strong halfway through the year to play well at times for the Packers.

There’s some small things that he will need to be better at, like play recognition and finishing tackles, but the Packers have high hopes for Barnes after a solid first season.

It seems, with the organization not taking a linebacker until late in the draft, and still no signing of a veteran free agent, the Packers have full faith in Martin and Barnes starting out the season as the starters.

In the case of Burks, Summers and McDuffie, providing solid play as depth players will be important. Burks has been a bit of a disappointment in his first few seasons, while Summers has shown flashes, despite being undersized for his position. He’ll be a solid backup again this year.

Who knows with McDuffie? He was a standout player at Boston College who posted big tackling numbers. His knocks against him were staying healthy and his pass-coverage, which is incredibly important in the NFL.

In all of the other position groups on the Packers defense, there’s a big-name player (or players) that have proven themselves to be reliable at the position group. The inside linebacker position is the most unproven group on the team.

If the Packers defense is to improve, it starts at the heart of the 11 men on the field.

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Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.

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