Packer Plus - - Spotlight On Inside Linebackers -

For a look at how the Pack­ers’ in­side lineback­ers fared in 2015 — and why the po­si­tion could fac­tor into Green Bay’s draft plans — here’s a re­view of Bob McGinn’s player grades in Jan­uary:

Sam Bar­ring­ton: En­tered the sea­son ranked 15th on the Jour­nal Sen­tinel's most-im­por­tant player list be­cause he was pro­jected to play ev­ery snap at strong in­side LB. His sea­son ended 16 snaps into the opener with a foot in­jury that re­quired surgery. The Pack­ers are ex­pected to draft or sign at least two ILBs, but at this point he's the best on the ros­ter. Bar­ring­ton isn't big, but he burns with in­ten­sity and shows pop as a tack­ler. If he can play be­yond his size (6-1, 240) and 4.76 speed in cov­er­age, he could be the an­swer. Grade: In­com­plete.

Clay Matthews: Played 1,152 of 1,189 snaps, in­clud­ing 882 at ILB (74.2%) and 270 (22.7%) at OLB. He took one for the team, spend­ing 1½ years in­side, but he be­longs out­side. His pro­duc­tion in 2015 was dis­ap­point­ing. Among the four ILBs, he ranked a dis­tant last in tack­les per snap (one ev­ery 12.1). An ex­tremely ac­cu­rate tack­ler through­out his ca­reer, he missed 12 (five more than his ca­reer high) to rank third on the de­fense. He did equal his ca­reer-high in tack­les for loss with 7 1⁄ 2, and for the fifth time in seven sea­sons led the club in pres­sures (34 1⁄ 2). Matthews also was out of po­si­tion too of­ten in cov­er­age. Of the 12 pass plays of 20 yards or more al­lowed by the LBs, he was re­spon­si­ble for 6 1⁄ 2. He also gave up two TD passes, equal­ing his to­tal from his first six sea­sons. His high­en­ergy, fast-paced style sim­ply is more condu- cive out­side than in­side. Grade: B-mi­nus.

*Nate Palmer: Third-year man beat out Joe Thomas and Carl Brad­ford for the fourth berth at ILB. He moved into the lineup when Bar­ring­ton went down in the opener and started the next 10 games, play­ing 478 snaps to 45 for Jake Ryan. The only de­vi­a­tion came in Game 8 at Carolina when Palmer was benched late in the first half. When Palmer was too hes­i­tant and strug­gled in cov­er­age, he never played an­other snap in­side. He did fin­ish sec­ond among ILBs in tack­les per snap (one ev­ery 6.8) but also missed 13, sec­ond most on the de­fense. Grade: D.

Jake Ryan: Were the Pack­ers able to find a start­ing ILB in the fourth round? The jury's still out, but at least they saw Ryan start seven games and have 329 snaps to make their off-sea­son eval­u­a­tion. Ryan tried hard, played in­tel­li­gently and seemed tough enough. He also

was a step slow at times, played high and couldn't ex­tri­cate him­self from block­ers. He missed too many tack­les (nine) but also paced ILBs in tack­les per snap (one ev­ery 5.8, more than twice the rate of Matthews). Grade: Cmi­nus.

Joe Thomas: Need­ing a cover LB so Matthews could move out­side in dime, the Pack­ers plucked Thomas off the Cow­boys' prac­tice squad and be­gan us­ing him im­me­di­ately. As their first true dime LB in some time, Thomas played 319 snaps to mixed re­views. He was the team's sec­ond-most ef­fec­tive bl­itzer with one pres­sure ev­ery seven rushes. A smart player, he han­dled a dif­fi­cult scheme with­out glar­ing is­sue. And he missed only three tack­les. He was off and on in cov­er­age, at times a step or two late re­act­ing. Grade: D. * Palmer was re­leased this off-sea­son.

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