The Green Bay Packers are set to open training camp later this week. This is the next in a series of articles previewing the Packers position by position, analyzing the talent on the roster and discussing key questions that are facing the Packers as they begin preparation for the 2022 season.
Today we look at the inside linebacker. For our look at the quarterbacks, click here and for running backs, click here. The wide receivers can be found here and the tight ends here while the offensive line can be found here. The defensive line here and outside linebackers here. We will examine another position each day until the start of training camp.
- De’Vondre Campbell
Campbell signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Packers last season and had a breakout year that saw him become the Packers first All-Pro at ILB since Ray Nitschke.
Campbell is smart, quick and puts himself in a good position to make plays. He demonstrated leadership on and off the field and was the difference maker the Packers had lacked at ILB in many years.
Campbell is the foundation of the linebacker group and the Packers were fortunate to re-sign him to a long-term deal this offseason.
- Krys Barnes
Barnes enters his third season in the NFL. The former UCLA star works hard and has great football intelligence although he lacks the elite athletic skills the Packers look for at the position.
Barnes will be challenged by first-round pick Quay Walker and it is likely a matter of time before Walker assumes the starting position.
Look for Barnes to see extensive action on special teams and to still fill in on defense when called upon this season.
- Quay Walker
Walker was one of the Packers first round picks this season and the former Georgia Bulldog has outstanding athleticism.
He is a reliable tackler who reminded some scouts of Campbell. Walker is eventually expected to become the starter opposite Campbell. When will depend on how quickly he picks up the defense and adjusts to life in the NFL.
- Ty Summers
Summers is entering his fourth season with the Packers. While the former TCU star has become a special teams regular, he has yet to prove he can be a consistent contributor on defense. In 2021, he played only 29 defensive snaps.
With the return of Campbell and the addition of Walker, Summers will have a fight on his hands for a roster spot. His contributions on special teams will be important in that battle and he has to impress Rich Bisaccia to keep his job.
- Ray Wilborn
Wilborn appears to be climbing the depth chart. He is more athletic than Summers and although he hasn’t taken a snap yet in an NFL game, appears to fit well into the Packers current defensive scheme.
Wilborn played safety and linebacker at Ball State and will be a player to watch when it comes to being a backup ILB and special teams player.
- Isaiah McDuffie
McDuffie finished the preseason with a strong performance against the Bills but didn’t take a snap on defense in his first NFL campaign. He played extensively on special teams but had only two tackles in 13 games.
The Packers will be looking for the Boston College alum to take a step forward in his second season if he earns a roster spot.
- Ellis Brooks
The undrafted free agent out of Penn State lacks ideal speed but knows where to be to make tackles. He faces an uphill battle to make the team or the practice squad and will have to excel on special teams during camp and the preseason to stick.
- Caliph Brice
Brice is an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic. He played with Packers first round pick Devonte Wyatt at Hutchinson Community College. He’s trying to make a big jump from Florida Atlantic to the NFL and faces long odds to make the roster.
Three Key Questions
- When Will Walker Be Ready to Start?
Brian Gutekunst drafted Walker with the expectation that he would start. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry reportedly wants to use more defenses with two inside linebackers on the field to prevent the Packers from having to play the small box.
Walker needs to insert himself into the lineup to make that system work to its potential. The sooner he’s ready, the sooner Barry can implement the scheme and the Packers defense can become more athletic and versatile.
- Who Wins the Backup Jobs?
Krys Barnes is the favorite to be one of the backups but beyond that the other spot (or two) is wide open. Special teams will be a key in determining who else makes the roster as will seeing who fits into the new defensive scheme.
There are roster spots up for grabs and we’ll get an idea of the direction of the team by who stays and who goes.
- Can De’Vondre Campbell Repeat His 2021 Performance?
Campbell delivered an All Pro performance in his first year with the Packers although he had never approached that level of play in his first five seasons in the league.
Part of the improvement was due to playing one position all season and knowing his assignments. Part of it may have also been the motivation to make good when playing for a new contract.
Now Campbell must do it again and at least maintain his new level of play after signing a lucrative, long-term deal to stay in Green Bay.
The Packers are counting on Campbell to continue to play at a high level for this defense to become elite.
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