In recent history, the Green Bay Packers defense has struggled. Many believe that the Packers have underachieved on that side of the ball. Outside linebacker, safety, and cornerback (at least one) have been positions of strength. However, there has been one position that has been a consistent weakness. That position is the inside linebacker. But De’Vondre Campbell is bringing something that has been missing on the Green Bay Packers defense.
Green Bay Packers Defense Looks Different With De’Vondre Campbell at Inside Linebacker
One of the least knowledgeable takes we have heard is that inside linebacker doesn’t matter in the NFL. It is a hot take that doesn’t make much sense. If you are looking for proof, look no further than the Packers defense.
Former general manager Ted Thompson seemed not to put much value in the inside linebacker position. That thought process had been handed down to current general manager Brian Gutekunst. But it appears that Gutekunst is starting to wise up.
Right before the start of training camp, Gutekunst signed De’Vondre Campbell to a one-year deal. For the non-hardcore football fan, that deal might not have been big news. However, after what Packers fans have seen in the first five games, the signing of De’Vondre Campbell might be a game-changer.
A Free Agent Inside Linebacker Making a Difference
The Packers have tried strengthening the inside linebacker position through free agency before. In 2020, the Packers signed Christian Kirksey. The results were the same. Kirksey dealt with injuries and didn’t make much of a difference. Prior to that, BJ Goodson was signed, and again, didn’t change the play at inside linebacker.
With the failed signings prior to De’Vondre Campbell, many were skeptical that a free agent could turn around the position. However, Campbell seems to be changing the luck of the Packers when it comes to signing free-agent inside linebackers.
When the Packers signed Campbell, we discussed how it brought necessary depth to inside linebacker. As the season has progressed, Campbell has shown that he is much more than a depth provider. After five games, Campbell leads the Packers defense with 48 combined tackles, with 31 of them being solo tackles. He has also registered two interceptions, recovered one fumble, and has had one quarterback hit. Even with his late arrival, Campbell is also the defense signal-caller, a job usually given to the most reliable defensive player.
Many have wondered why Campbell lasted so long on the free-agent market this off-season. One of those people being franchise player and Packers starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It does seem curious that he lasted so long. Prior to signing to the Packers, De’Vondre Campbell was a productive player for the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals.
No matter the reason, the Packers are reaping the benefits. Through the first five weeks, Pro Football Focus has him rated as the fourth highest linebacker in the NFL. Picking up a player that is playing that well, makes the Packers front office look pretty good.
Packers Hoping Two is a Charm
Gutekunst and the Packers are hoping they can hit twice on signing a free agent inside linebacker this season.
When the Dallas Cowboys released Jaylon Smith, it didn’t take long for Gutekunst and the Packers to pounce. Smith has shown that he can be a contributor to a defense. He has slowed down the past couple of seasons. Still, Smith is an upgrade over what the Packers have behind De’Vondre Campbell.
Krys Barnes is a solid player and would be a nice piece for an inside linebacker rotation. However, he has dealt with injuries and has missed time in his young career. Oren Burks is athletic and has finally shown some glimpses this season. Still, he is best off as a backup and a contributor on special teams. The other inside linebacker, Ty Summers, seems like the most to lose. When forced into action, he has looked lost. Even on special teams, he hasn’t shown much.
Partnering Smith up with De’Vondre Campbell would give the Packers defense one of the most athletic inside linebackers they have had in a lot of years. Inside linebacker play does matter. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers illustrated in the NFC Championship game in 2020, inside linebackers can make a huge difference.
Campbell has shown he can play at a high level. If the Packers can get Smith to do the same, Packers fans who have been clamoring for better inside linebacker play, might finally get their wish.
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