Ryan’s Success Is Pivotal For Green Bay

Jake Ryan

Linebacker Jake Ryan was one of those prospects more rumored to be on the Green Bay Packers’ radar entering this past draft.  A captain at Michigan, Ryan was one who was pegged as a guy who could provide a lot of value in the middle rounds.  Alas, he was there for the taking in the fourth round and the Green Bay Packers made it official.

Ryan projects as an inside linebacker, which is a position of great need for the Packers.  But asking a fourth-rounder to jump in and play at a starting level is always a bit of a reach.  It’s no accident that Ryan was a captain for the Wolverines.  He’s a smart, instinctive player who has a lot of the tools and characteristics that have made previous pro players very successful.  He doesn’t have blazing speed and he’s likely far from a full understanding of the team’s defense, but there’s enough there that the Packers likely have Ryan penciled in as a starter in 2015.

Earlier this week, Ryan appeared on The Big Show with Bill Michaels and spoke about how coming to Green Bay is a dream come true for him.  Having come from Michigan and all of the tradition that is there, he relates to what Green Bay offers on Sunday’s and he’s excited to experience it.  When Michaels asked him how he would grade himself, he balked at the question and said he’s just focused on learning more every day and being ready to play when the pads come on.

The Packers have to be crossing their fingers that Ryan can overachieve a bit for a fourth rounder.  If he is able to secure a starting spot, presumably next to Sam Barrington, that would allow the Packers to use Clay Matthews on the outside more often.  It’s no secret that Matthews will spend time on the inside again this season, at least early on.  After his move inside in 2014, the Packers quickly improved on their run defense and in managing the middle of the field.

While Matthews’ versatility is surely something the Packers are glad to have in their back pocket, he is paid to be and is best suited as an outside linebacker.  If Ryan is able to contribute at a high level, the Packers defense will have gotten a huge boost, and one that could elevate their stature in 2015.  Last year when it was Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk manning the middle, teams picked apart what neither could do:  shed blocks and cover.  When Hawk was hurt, he was virtually ineffective and on the field mostly for his ability to line other guys up and call the defense.  When the liability became too much, Matthews made the move.  What a luxury it would be if Green Bay could move Matthews inside when they wanted to rather than when they had to?

With Julius Peppers back and assuming that he can provide a similar output to last year’s and with Matthews focusing on getting after the passer, the Packers could see a resurgence in their defense, similar to what they did in 2009, after a tough season the year prior.  Ryan strikes me as the type of player who is only going to get better as the season wears on.  He has the makings of a quick study and one who could quickly establish himself as one of the staples of the Packers defense for seasons to come.  It may not happen right away and we very well could see Matthews starting on the inside in week one, but I foresee Ryan’s role growing quickly.

If the Packers can improve their defense that nearly helped them win the NFC championship game in Seattle last year and couple it with the existing offense, the sky is the limit for this Green Bay team.

Of course, injuries can change everything and Ryan has had a few big ones in his past.  He tore his ACL in a spring practice in early 2013 but was back on the field seven months later.  Ryan also had a leg injury in 2012 and has had shoulder surgery in the past as well.  Former Wisconsin Badger and San Francisco 49er Chris Borland had shoulder problems during his college days and it was ultimately concussions that led to his stunning retirement just over a month ago.  It’s a stark reminder that we have to be cautious with players coming in with injury histories and set our expectations accordingly.

As the team prepares for their organized team activities later this month, gear up to hear Ryan’s name a lot among the media coverage of the team.  If there is one player from this draft that the Packers are counting on to give them everything he can be right now, it’s all 6’3″, 240 pounds of him.  The quest begins in just a few short days.


Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.com

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24 thoughts on “Ryan’s Success Is Pivotal For Green Bay

  1. i think its too much to ask of Ryan to come in and be a difference maker in his first year. i think with Bradford and Thomas having a year of experience on him,it will be one or both of them to take a big jump and claim the starting spot next to Barrington. i hope you are right and i am wrong though.

    1. The only thing Bradford n Thomas really have on Ryan is practice time and better playbook understanding. Neither have game experience as an advantage, so if Ryan picks up the playbook quickly, he very well could jump both of them, especially Bradford with ILB being completely new to him after being a pass rusher over his career. I do think if Bradford picks up the position mentally though, he’s gonna be a beast. He’s got a high motor and he’s a definite football player. Also heard that he’s cut from 250 to 240, so that should help improve his quickness. Personally, I don’t care who it is, just hope one of them step up and become studs, hopefully all 3 of em do and help this team do a complete 180 at the ILB position from recent years.

  2. So the ‘three year wait and grow theory is now theoretically tossed out the window’ which is the acclaimed instant defense of those who play to failing level drafted in early rounds but a 3rd day draft guy becomes ‘pivotal’ to a defense essentially on day one?…Uh-oh. 🙂

    1. Some may never contribute, some may take three years and then contribute, others contribute immediately, etc. etc. So?

  3. David Bakhtiari (4th round pick) and Cory Linsley (5th round), stepped in immediately and have done very well. Assuming Ryan is healthy, I see no reason why he can’t be a difference maker on day 1.

    1. But it’s not the way to bet.

      The more likely scenario is that he takes some time to learn and becomes a contributor sometime during the season.

      That would also be a success on Ryan’s part, or for any draft pick outside the top ten.

      1. TT doesn’t strike me as a betting/gambling man. I agree it’s more likely that Ryan will gradually come along, but if Ryan is thrown into the fire due to injuries, then he has the physical traits, insane work ethic, football IQ and pedigree to succeed immediately.

      2. The ‘bet’ is that someone will step up (Ryan, Thomas, Bradford, Danzler). If they all fail miserable, Clay will play more ILB and Perry, Peppers, Neal rotate outside. Sounds like a solid multi-tiered approach with a backup plan to me.

    2. Well,it’s easy to look good when you’re surrounded by the best Guard tandem in the NFL. NOT SAYING Bahk and Linsley aren’t damn good players, but they do have it easier than any young ILB looking to make an impact.

      1. Great point about Lang and Sitton. I would expect Peppers and Matthews to be helpful mentors too, even if they aren’t ILBs.

      2. Why doesn’t someone ask Lang and Sitton? They may have something more than ‘he looked good because of us’.

  4. I think it’s too much to ask Jake Ryan to be pivotal to the Packers. He is one of several players who will compete for a starting role. I believe the Packers had plans for ILB with or without Ryan. What none of us know is how ready someone from last year’s roster or practice squad is for a much larger role.

  5. sky’s not the limit, the Super Bowl is, and if we don’t reach it this year its going to be very very disappointing…of course there are those who will say, “but we won another division championship” …big deal, i got enough of those hats now….the clock is ticking on Arod.

    1. Most people on here are happy with just a winning record. TT is doing just fine as long as we have a winning record. We don’t need no stinkin Super Bowl…

    2. And fan bases in about 10 other NFL cities may be saying the same. There is no sure bet, best you can hope for is a highly competitive team and roll the dice.

  6. I thought TT would double dip at ILB. When he didn’t, I hoped that it meant Bradford or someone else was looking good in practice. I do like Ryan.

    1. I thought he would too but I really like Ryan. He may not be the fastest, tallest, or quickest but he’s a good football player. Thompson almost never drafts the guys the win the Underwear Drills at the combine. I heard they liked Anthony but after the combine he had he goes from a 3rd or 4th round prospect to the top ILB on some boards, why because he performed well in spandex? Personally I think Ryan is an excellent fit for the Packers.
      I think Bradford is going to surprise a lot of folks this year, if nothing else as a extra blitzer in some passing packages. I know you like Bradford and I have a feeling you’re right on the mark he’s looking good in practice.
      One other piece from last years draft that could be interesting is Thornton. Many felt Ted really reached on this guy and he might have a bit but I remember reading about Thornton before last years draft and he was rising fast. If he can contribute this year this defense will be very solid.

  7. Realistically I think all that TT and MM are counting on getting out of the rookies is on special teams…if they can handle more so much the better.

  8. So we have a fresh young A.J. Hawk again. He has the intelligence to run the defense. You just can’t teach speed unfortunately. Average ILB is better than what we had the last 5 yrs…

    1. Ryan’s faster than hawk or jones. To someone else’s point above, it doesn’t matter which of the 3 steps up (Ryan/Thomas/Bradford), we just need one. My money is on Thomas. GoPack!

  9. mccarthy had good things to say about Thomas before he hurt his knee. if he is fully healthy i expect him to be right in the mix to start at MLB.

  10. Uh, he is actually pretty fast for an ILB. He ran a 4.6 40. But I know how we like to think most white guys are pretty slow.

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