Although it’s still fairly early in training camp for the Green Bay Packers, no rookie has exhibited himself better than inside linebacker Blake Martinez.
As it stands right now, Martinez has shown the defensive coaching staff enough to be on the field at all times. So when the Packers play their base defense, or are in their nickel or dime looks, expect to see No. 50 on the field.
The nickel and dime looks constitute about 75% of the defenses that the Packers play in a given game.
Not bad for a compensatory pick in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft, which was announced by former Packers great Jerry Kramer.
The 6’2″, 237-pound Martinez had been a two-year starter for the Stanford Cardinal. In those two years, Martinez had 243 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, 12 passes defended and had five picks.
In 2014, Martinez was named honorable mention in the Pac-12 at linebacker, while in 2015 was named first-team All-Pac-12.
Martinez ran a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash as the NFL Scouting Combine, but he improved that mark to 4.67 at his pro day.
The former Cardinal star has impressed the Packers since his arrival in Green Bay.
Just ask head coach Mike McCarthy.
“He looks very comfortable,” McCarthy said back in the middle of June. “I think he’s done a really nice job transitioning from the base defense to the sub defense, his command, the echoing of the calls. He’s very bright. Quick. And he definitely is a very instinctive player. He’s off to a very good start.”
Once training camp started in late July, Martinez continued to impress, as he practiced with the starters in the base, nickel and dime.
Martinez showed that he could play the dime scheme that the Packers utilize at Stanford, and that has continued in training camp thus far.
“Right now base and nickel, mainly, and then I’ve been running with the 1s in the dime package and stuff like that,” Martinez said. “I’ve been working on it and doing what they need me to do, as long as I can get the job done.”
And No. 50 is getting the job done, at least to the satisfaction of the coaching staff.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers talked about how studious Martinez is when he talked with the media on Wednesday.
“He’s [Martinez] an attention to detail guy,” Capers said. “If he doesn’t know it, he’s going to ask. There’s going to be errors, because this is the first time he has seen a lot of these things. He normally doesn’t make the same error twice.”
I told Landry that Martinez was getting the starter’s reps in all the defensive schemes, including the dime.
“Well, Blake is very instinctive,” Landry said. “He plays the run well and he understands his landmarks in coverage. He makes good checks, which is one of the reasons why they [the Packers] liked him. He can be a three-down guy.”
The Packers won’t know for sure how good Martinez can be until they actually see him play on the field in game situations. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame game versus the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night was cancelled due to poor field conditions.
But on Friday night, the Packers will get a chance to see Martinez and a lot of the younger players when they take on the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.
If Martinez continues to play like he has at OTAs and in training camp, he looks to be a definite starter at one of the inside linebacker positions and to be on the field with the defense at all times.
Second-year linebacker Jake Ryan has been playing next to Martinez on the inside in the OTAs and in training camp, but now will be pushed by the return of Sam Barrington, who just came off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list on Tuesday night.
Barrington started seven games in 2014 at inside linebacker for the Packers and started in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears in 2015, before suffering an ankle injury which put him out for the entire season.
Ryan started five games at inside linebacker as a rookie in 2015 and played in 14 games overall.
So while the battle to become one of the starters at inside linebacker between Ryan and Barrington looks to be very interesting, Martinez has so far proven that he can be trusted to be a three-down player at the other inside linebacker position.
Martinez gets to show that the proof is in the pudding, starting on Friday night against the Browns in Green Bay.