There were a few bright spots on the Packers defense in 2017, but none shined brighter than Packers second year linebacker, Blake Martinez. Coming into the season Martinez was a more confident player and was noticeably flowing with the game better. Unlike his rookie season where he seemed to have react too often instead of knowing where to be. He eventually lost playing time to Joe Thomas and was dealing with an injury during the second half of his rookie season but played enough to show a glimpse of what was to come.
In his sophomore season, he notched the 2nd most defensive snaps for the packers, only behind safety Haha Clinton-Dix. Which wouldn’t matter as he still leads the team with 144 tackles and found himself in a three-way tie for first in the NFL. These tackles are not the type of statistical tackles we were used to from a former number 50, that would find himself jumping on a pile at the end of a play. These were hard nose, blue collar tackles.
Unlike his rookie season Martinez was serviceable in man coverage, an area where he lost playing time in year one. Many Packer fans were surprised by plays Martinez was able to make against some very athletic tight ends in the NFC North. If he can continue to improve in this area he’ll be on a faster upward trajectory than any other linebacker from his rookie class, which isn’t bad for a fourth-round pick.
One area Martinez continued to be great at was run defense, occasionally being in the wrong gap but improved from his rookie year. That’s not a knock considering Martinez excelled as a rookie in run defense, where in 2016 he was graded as the best rookie linebacker, with a 9.9% run stop percentage. Ahead of Falcons Deion Jones with a 9% and Patriots Elandon Roberts with a 7.4%.
Overall, Martinez didn’t grade out as an elite linebacker, but he still has some growing to do and a switch the Mike Pettine defense could be great in the long run. If I had to pick the next Packers defender to make the Pro Bowl, Martinez would be it.