Grading out players week-to-week is one of the most important jobs in football. It is vital to do this in order to see how players are performing and what they can do to improve. In coaching, this is something you do every week. I thought I would take a shot and grade out the Packers inside linebackers from the week 7 game vs. New Orleans.

One of the most difficult things for me to do since I’ve been writing has been to criticize players. After all, these players are at the peak of their profession. I figured that I owed it to you, the reader and the fan, to be as critical and honest about each player that I could in order to give you a solid idea of how they are performing on the field.

Before we begin, I will discuss briefly the method I use to grade players. I use the one, two, three method. I think this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to grade players and helps to get a good idea of how they are doing without taking days to grade their performance. The point system is simple:

Zero = Busted play

One = Correct assignment, wrong technique

Two = Correct assignment, correct technique

Three = Outstanding play. A play that changes the course of a drive or the game.

On each play, a player will receive one of these 4 grades. Zero and one are negative plays, where two and three are positive plays. In order to get the grade, you divide the total number of positive plays by the total number of plays that the player was in. I graded both Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan this week. Let’s see how they did.

Blake Martinez:

Negative plays: 25

Busted plays: 0

Positive plays: 46

Outstanding plays: 4

Grade: 60

Martinez really had a decent game. He seemed to be in on virtually every play and flowed to the ball well. One of the things that I like the most about him is that he seems to have a nose for the ball wherever the play goes. He filled his gaps well. If the play went away, he scraped well over the top and played the cutback well. His pursuit and angles seemed good throughout the game. His drops in coverage were good for the most part. The Packers played a lot of cover 2, with Martinez usually as the hole player, or defending the deep middle. Lets take a look at some of his plays.

I gave Martinez a 2 on this play. He took on the block of the center a little deep, giving ground for the run. When playing the run, you want to get downhill as quick as possible in order to close ground between the blocker and the defender. He played the run well here, using the hands to get off of the center and find the ball. The idea here is to rip across the face of the blocker and find the football. He played his gap and used good technique.

This is one of my favorite plays from this game. I gave Martinez a 3 on this play. He drops here as a deep middle defender in a cover 2 look. Watch his change of direction and pursuit to the football. He stopped a potentially big play by the offense. The corner does a good job at forcing the run to turn up, and Martinez rallies to the ball quickly. The last line of defense here was the safety. This is what you look for in a linebacker; someone who can change direction and find the ball. He also was in good position in their cover 2 look.

Here is an example of Martinez dropping in coverage. The Packers were playing a 3 deep look here with Martinez – the Buc linebacker – dropping into his hook/curl zone. He gets a little deep here, but the idea is to keep the offensive player in front of you and prevent a big play. He finds the offensive player and breaks quickly. I gave him a 2 on this play as well. His drops were one of the most impressive things from this game. One thing that I like so much about the way he plays is his ability to come downhill and play the run as well as drop into space. That is why he is utilized so much in Capers’ “stack” front, in which Martinez will bump over and play as a middle linebacker with the weakside linebacker bumping outside of the tackle and the Sam or Will rolling back. It looks exactly like a 4-3 defense, and Martinez is a solid middle linebacker.

Next, lets take a look and see how Jake Ryan did.

Jake Ryan:

Negative plays: 5

Busted plays: 0

Positive plays: 19

Outstanding plays: 0

Grade: 79

Ryan played a decent game. The only reason his score is higher than Martinez is the fact that he didn’t play as many snaps, therefore he didn’t have the opportunity to have as many busted plays as Martinez did. Ryan played a total of 24 snaps. Because Capers runs so much nickel and dime defense, that will often take Ryan out of the game. Lets take a look at some of his plays.

This was a negative play by Ryan. I gave him a 1 here. He played his gap, the playside A gap, but his technique seemed off here. Notice that his shoulders are turned and the tackle blocks down on him, driving him out of the play. In this situation, he wants to keep his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, working downhill closing down his gap. He gets turned out here, but the defense rallies to the ball well.

Not a bad play here. Ryan is aligning in his 30 technique here (outside shade of guard, 5 yards off the ball) and plays the B gap. He reads the guard well and takes on the playside tackle. Notice here that when he makes contact with the tackle he creates a pile of players and there is nowhere for the ball carrier to go. This is technique linebacker play, especially vs. a 2 tight end set. New Orleans runs to the short side of the field, but Ryan is there to take it away. I gave him a 2 for this play. In this short yardage situation, I would have liked to see him play a little tighter.

Both Ryan and Martinez had decent games. As I mentioned earlier, with the limited amount of reps that Ryan had in the game it is hard to really draw many conclusions on him, but with the amount of work that Martinez got in, I think we got a good overall idea of how he did. There were a few technique things that hurt their game from time to time, but not enough to make a huge impact on the outcome of the game. The most important thing with these guys though is that neither one of them had any busted plays. I think this position is one of the strengths of the defense so far this season and I look for things to only get better.

Look for both Martinez and Ryan to get some good work in vs. Detroit on Monday night. The defense needs to step up in a big way vs. an offense led by a good quarterback in Matt Stafford.


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As always, Go Pack Go!

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