When the Green Bay Packers signed ILB De’Vondre Campbell to a one-year, prove-it deal prior to the 2021 season, few expected the veteran linebacker to earn All Pro honors for the first time in his sixth NFL season. But that’s exactly what the former University of Minnesota star did. Campbell bet on himself and won.
Campbell led the Packers with 146 tackles which was also a new career high. He recorded two sacks, forced two fumbles, and intercepted two passes. Campbell also broke up five passes and had six tackles for loss.
The Packers defense gave Campbell what he had longed for, the opportunity to utilize his skills. Campbell never felt he was being used properly in Atlanta and Arizona. He finally got the chance in Green Bay, and he made the most of it.
Matt LaFleur Was Excited for De’Vondre Campbell
Head coach Matt LaFleur was thrilled when Campbell was named All-Pro. “Those are the type of moments you live for as a coach,” LaFleur said. “To see someone who works so hard at his craft, who has added so much to this team, not only on the field, that’s obviously for everybody to see, but what he brings to our locker room, just to our mentality, not only our defense but our entire football team. He’s been a big pickup for us. He’s a big reason as to why we’ve had the year we’ve had defensively.”
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst rewarded Campbell for his outstanding season. The Packers signed Campbell to a five-year, $50 million contract using the cap space created by the Davante Adams trade.
But in 2022, Campbell’s play fell off a bit from his career-best performance of the previous year. There were many reasons for the decline, but the Packers certainly would like to see Campbell return to his All-Pro form of 2021.
Reasons for De’Vondre Campbell’s Struggles
One reason for the falloff in Campbell’s play was playing alongside rookie Quay Walker. While Walker was much faster and more athletic than Krys Barnes, he was also inexperienced. Early in the season, Walker had difficulty diagnosing plays. Campbell often felt the need to cover more ground because Walker was out of position and as a result, he was often a split second late getting to the ball carrier.
In the first four games of the season, Campbell already had more missed tackles than he did in all the previous season. As Walker got better at reading plays, Campbell was able to be in the right position to make tackles like he was in 2021.
Another thing that slowed Campbell down in 2022 was injuries. He missed four games due to a knee injury. He sat out Weeks 9-12 of the season and the Packers lost three of those four games.
But despite a slow start, Campbell finished the season strong. After his return from injury, he played well. Earlier in the season, he scored his first career NFL touchdown when he intercepted a pass by Washington’s Taylor Heinicke and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown.
Despite missing four games, Campbell made 96 tackles, broke up three passes and intercepted two including the pick-six. He also matched his previous season total of six tackles for loss.
Campbell finished the 2022 season with strong grades from Pro Football Focus and still ranked in the top 20 percent of qualified inside linebackers for the season.
Packers Hoping for a Bounce Back Season
The Packers are hopeful that Campbell can return to his 2021 form. He starts the season healthy and hopefully, Walker is more comfortable in the defense in year two of his career which will be one less thing to worry about for Campbell. In fact, Walker’s speed, and ability to run sideline-to-sideline could help the veteran make more plays this season instead of moving him out of position.
Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry is also hopeful that young players like T.J. Slaton and 2022 first-round pick Devonte Wyatt will help improve the defensive line play in front of Campbell and Walker and give them more chances to make plays. The Packers also drafted two defensive linemen this year in Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks. If the defensive line plays better, it can only help the linebackers.
Campbell also gives the Green Bay defense leadership and experience. He calls the plays for the defense and makes sure his teammates are in the right formation at the snap of the ball. He is also one of the defensive captains.
The Packers are hoping for another strong season from Campbell, and this helps the defense finally live up to the high expectations set for it in 2023.
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