2014 Packers ILB Position – Last Year’s Safety?

Brad Jones and AJ Hawk
Brad Jones and AJ Hawk

Won’t be long now! We can stop speculating on all things Packers in a few long days from now.  This offseason has been very good, talent has been added in Peppers and Guion for Defensive line.

There is a ton of talent heading into their second year. Baktiari, Boyd, Lacy, Jones, Hyde, Barrington, Palmer, Mulumba and White all earned playing time last year.  Every NFL coach and GM will tell you the biggest jump is going into that second year.

You add the players returning from injury in Bulaga, Sherrod, Matthews, Tretter, Worthy and getting players that were just banged up for most of the year like the Jones, both Datone and Brad were hampered with injuries, Perry played on a broken foot. These returning players account for five first round picks a second and a 4th. Not having those players on the field hurt the Packers in 2013 and will add a big boost for 2014.

You add another draft class to increase competition and this camp will be fun to watch.

I have heard more about the Packers not drafting an Inside Linebacker then about getting the best all around safety in the draft. From a lot of comments through out the Packer world, many think the defense is doomed because of not getting an ILB.  I am not one of those.

Safety was a bigger need, Changing the lineup of the Defensive line was a bigger need, Wide Receiver was a bigger need. When you are one injury away from Miles White being your #3 WR, it is a big need.

The situation at ILB is far from bad or will even be a hindrance to the 2014 defense. I have never understood the crap piled on Hawk for his eight years with the team. In 2013 Hawk became the Packers All Time Leading Tackler. When you look at the history of the Packers that is no small feat. That record stood for 24 years and that player took 11 years to do it.  He again lead the team in tackles last year, had 5 sacks and one Int with 5 passes defensed. He has missed 2 games in 8 years and yet so many just plain hate him.

Jones in 2012 made plays that none of the ILB’s the Packers have had since the change to the 3-4 were even capable of making. He played injured all of last year and missed 4 games. Heading into this season healthy I expect more of the 2012 play. If he doesn’t, then I will start to complain.

Lattimore is said to be having a great off season and has flashed big time in limited play. He is expected to take a bigger role in the defense this season. I look forward to seeing that.

Barrington is another ILB that will now be coming into his second year. I am interested to see what kind of a second year jump he can take.

My player to watch this year at ILB is Jake Doughty, he is 6’ 234# out of Utah State. He has great lateral agility, instinct’s are off the charts and is a tackling machine. All Mountain West first team two years in a row.

The ILB position has competition, it has experience and with the development of players, depth.  With the addition of Peppers, Neals development at OLB, adding Bradford, Mulumba going into his second year along with Perry and Palmer I fully expect to see Matthews playing ILB at times in Dime. He has played quite a few snaps at ILB in the past.  There are a lot of snaps in dime with one ILB on the field, we will see a many combinations and the Packers have multiple choices to fill not only that role but in base and nickel also.

  • Two Bears, One Cup

    I don’t think our ILBs are nearly as bad as our safeties were last year. It will probably be the weakest position on the defense (NT and especially S being contenders, of course). But i just don’t see it being nearly as bad as the safety play was last year.

    • Chad Lundberg

      Hard to be any worse than the only Safety tandem that did not get a single pick all season. I believe Jennings and Burnett were ranked somewhere in the 70’s among all safeties.

  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    3rd and medium scares me this year. TEs and RB’s on wheel routes scare me. Hawk can’t cover and I don’t trust Jones.

    Areas of concern on D:

    1. ILB pass coverage
    2. Smaller 34 DL unable to plug holes… ILBs get swallowed by blockers… bad running D.

    That said, I do think this will be the best GB defense (not that this is saying much) since 2010.

    • Don

      You really expect there to be 2 ILB’s on the field with 3rd and medium? There may not be any. All this anxst over a position (second ILB)that may only be on the field 20% of the time. MM said, “My depth chart doesn’t look anything like your depth chart”. People are spending a lot of emotional dollars on a position that appears on their own depth chart, but probably barely makes an appearance on MM’s. I think we are going to see a lot of creativity on D that will render our traditional depth charts useless, just like we see on offense on most NFL teams now.

      • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

        I agree – MM will try to avoid mismatches like this. But don’t forget the other HC/QB will try to exploit those same matchup problems.

  • WKUPackFan

    It all depends on the scheme. AJ should never be required to match up in man against a TE or RB. That’s not his game. Hopefully with two competent safeties in base that won’t be a problem.

    It would be exciting to see CM3 play more ILB in passing defense.

  • GBPDAN

    I too am a little Concerned about the D and for most of the reasons I’m reading here. But, I’m also hoping for the best. The second year guys have to step up and the D just needs to stay healthy. Hopefully, the law of averages (if it’s practical for Packer injuries) will balance in our favor and swing towards a healthy 2014 season. We’ve been one of the most injured teams in the league lately, it’s time for the tide to turn!

  • Tim

    Like Archie, I’m a little concerned with the middle of the d. They were soft last year, both against run and pass. Hawk was ok last year. I think dix/hyde will be a big help, and should make Burnett, Jones and Hawk look better against passing up the middle. I’m not sure they’ll be any better against the run. I’m not a Hawk hater, but he has made a career out of ok play, not much better than that. Every so often, we see something really good play from him, but I’d love to see more of it. Surround ok with god awful, and you get god awful – which is what they were last year. I’m worried that they’ve improved enough to be much better this year. Other than safety, it is the same cast inside. More than one somebody has to be better this year, or a young guy has to emerge for the d to be much better imo.

  • Since ’61

    If the defense remains healthy we should see some improvement this season. 1. Burnett needs to be on a short leash. If he does not show improvement after the first 3-4 games he needs to be benched and give Hyde/Dix combo a try at safety. 2. Will Shields maintain his level of play after receiving his big payday? He could pull a Burnett. 3. Does Raji show up this season. if not, for the first 3-4 games bench him also. 4. Same for ILBs. If they don’t step up, put in players who will. Capers and MM need to decide that it’s time to produce or sit on defense. Make plays or go home. That message needs to be communicated and enforced. Also, the defense needs to know that it is still legal to make tackles in the NFL. Go Pack! Thanks, Since ’61

    • David

      Regarding Burnett: I think MM and DC will bench players at the appropriate times, and I trust them to do that (at least more than I’d trust me or anyone here to call the shot). Burnett will only be benched if the combination of players behind him have the abilities and skills developed to succeed. I’m confident that DC & Perry will make their decisions based on the unit’s best likelihood to succeed.

      Regarding Raji: I think Trgo will also make the decision which he feels is best for the situation, and I think he’s most qualified to make the choice. Not sure that the best way to communicate the message of expectations to the team is by benching players that have the greatest combination of skills and abilities to succeed at their positions. Maybe if it’s for a short moment to send a quick statement, but I hope you aren’t advocating throwing players onto the field early because those ahead of them aren’t performing to your ideals.

      I’d make the same sort of argument for the ILB corps. We’ll see how it goes, can’t wait to see.

      I guess what I’m trying to say, is that getting new players on the field could reap huge rewards, but I’m reluctant to advocate cutting lines quickly.

      Almost TC!

  • GBPDAN

    If starters are benched on D for non -performance, I just hope that there’s a better option waiting behind them. This is the key

    • Big T

      Good point Dan…

  • WKUPackFan

    I nominate David’s comment above for comment of the year. Well stated.

  • Peter Laes

    while not a Hawk fan, I think he is above average. People like to attack him for his lack of speed, poor coverage, tackling runners 8 yards past the line of scrimmage, etc. As the article stated, he is the all-time leading tackler. He also had an int last season which is more than all the safties combined. Also it seems that many are bashing the d-line, yet discount how the effect of a bad line affects Hawk’s play. He would have to constantly fight off o-linemen if the d line was doing it’s job. And having a strong set of db’s behind him would also free him up to be more aggressive. I also don’t feel confident regarding MM’s ability to bench players at the appropriate time – does any one remember Saturday? I think that one of the biggest problems both TT and MM have is their unwillingness to admit they made a mistake and get rid of players who didn’t perform as expected. TT seems unwilling at times to cut his higher draft picks. I have noticed in all of life that the higher position the person has, the more unwilling they are to admit mistakes.

    • Big T

      Very well put Peter…

    • Big T

      AGREE

      • TC

        I think our improved Safties, Improved D-line will make it easier for our ILB position, also our explosive offence will make defense better at every position.
        Can’t wait, I think it will be a top 5 defence next year.
        I just love my rose colored glasses, The frames are green and gold too, and I can’t wait to show them off,
        BRING IT … REST OF THE LEAGUE.

    • lefty

      A 3-4 defense is built around impact LB’s. Think of the 4 time SB champion Steelers of the 70’s & the 49er’s of today. Raji at NT & Hawk & Jones at ILB? C’mon. Any OC is going to focus on running it right up the middle & keeping Rodgers and the offense off the field.