Hopefully, tonight, the Green Bay Packers will finally make their preseason debut. Certainly, Lambeau Field will be pristine, so there’s no reason to think the Packers and Browns won’t take the field, but after last week, you never know.
The NFL preseason is always a mixed bag anyways. It can be exciting and boring at the same time, but the first game of the season is usually more anticipated and even though the outcome might be meaningless, what we see on the field it still important.
There may not be much to learn about Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews, but there is plenty to be learned about young players such as inside linebacker Blake Martinez.
Martinez, a fourth-round draft pick from Stanford, has already been impressive in training camp and has played well enough that some analysts, such as Eric Baranczyk are predicting that he will be in the starting lineup right away.
Martinez is an obvious fit for what the Packers need at linebacker and his extensive experience playing in sub packages at Stanford makes his transition to Green Bay, which also uses sub personnel a majority of the time, very smooth.
With the Cardinal, Martinez would routinely cover not only backs and tight ends, but at times receivers, in the slot and outside. And while one would hope the Packers don’t put Martinez or any linebacker for that matter on a receiver often, at least, he’s comfortable being in that position.
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As Baranczyk points out, the Packers have already been using Martinez in a starting role in their base, nickel and dime defenses, but Sam Barrington has also missed practice time, so it doesn’t necessarily mean the rookie is penciled in as the starter.
Yet, if Martinez can play well tonight and for the rest of the preseason, he might be able to lock down a starting role.
Martinez definitely is viewed as a better cover player than Barrington or Ryan, but he still runs just a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash and even though Pro Football Focus graded him as the best coverage linebacker in the draft, the Packers are still going to want to see him do it in live action against NFL receivers.
Martinez also needs to prove he can handle the run game. It’s not that he hasn’t proven that in camp, but again, there really is so substitution for the real thing. He needs to show he can shed blocks, take on guards and get guys on the ground.
My guess is that Martinez will impress tonight and my honest prediction is that he will see a significant amount of snaps this season, my prediction is at least 50 percent.
However, Martinez may be able to carve out an even bigger role for himself this season and that process starts tonight, with a strong performance against the Browns.