The Green Bay Packers have been searching for players at inside linebacker for the past few years, and it appears that in addition to Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington — they may have found one in rookie Jake Ryan.
Ryan, a fourth-round draft pick from Michigan in 2015, has taken some time to emerge, but after a standout performance against the Detroit Lions in which he notched 10 tackles — his second 10 tackle game of the season — he earned the right to start against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at Lambeau Field and it looks he will get that chance.
Ryan is the prototypical Packers draft pick. He was a senior — played a lot of football over four years and was highly productive in college. He also possess similar traits to Matthews in that he was once a pass-rushing outside linebacker for the Wolverines before moving inside for his senior season.
Ryan’s position flexibility makes him an intriguing player. He has shown that he can hold up in the run game and that he has a nose for the football. Yet his also a very capable pass rusher, particularly on blitzes and against the Lions held up better than expected in pass coverage. He is also a sure tackler and gets quickly from sideline to sideline, which are important traits for an NFL linebacker.
Following the loss of Barrington to a season-ending injury early in the year, the Packers were forced to play Nate Palmer and Joe Thomas, a pair of undrafed free agents, probably more than they would like.
Green Bay is not afraid to play rookies but Ryan wasn’t ready, at least not at linebacker.
However the rookie did start making an impact on special teams and eventually got some meaningful defensive snaps against Carolina. He posted 10 tackles in that game and he played even better in Detroit as he jumped off the screen a number of times with his motor and athleticism.
The Packers are getting ready for the stretch run, they want to be playing their best football and that means getting their best players on the field. And following his performance against the Lions, it was clear that Ryan needed more snaps, so kudos to defensive coordinator Dom Capers for giving them to him.
Last season, the Packers got a spark from a new starter at inside linebacker down the stretch and maybe in 2015 history will repeat itself.