Packers 2016 Recap: ILB Blake Martinez
- Appeared in 13 games, started 9
- 69 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception
- Pro Football Focus: 49.1/100 (68 of 88 qualified linebackers)
Expectations going into the season: High
Expectations were: Not Met
Analysis: Knee injury and coverage struggles derail Martinez’s rookie campaign
Expectations were extraordinarily high for rookie linebacker Blake Martinez. Dom Capers and the Packers defensive coaching staff was heaping praise on the Stanford graduate. The quick study earned himself a starting job. If an NFL player was defined by their July and August, Blake Martinez was the MVP of the league.
Martinez, who hasn’t had a dessert in five years, had a sweet start to the season. The rookie started 9 of his first 10 career games and intercepted a pass from Bears quarterback Matt Barkley.
In a Week 3 contest against the Detroit Lions, he gashed open his face and had to step away from the field with blood dripping down his face to get stitched up. It didn’t hold him out for long, and from that moment on Martinez has endeared himself to Packers fans looking for a tough-nosed inside linebacker.
A knee injury suffered against the Redskins kept him inactive or limited to special teams for the majority of the Packers six game winning streak to end the season. He returned once again to the starting lineup for Green Bay’s Wild Card matchup against the New York Giants, notching three tackles.
Notoriously stout against the run, Martinez easily slides into the mold of a tough linebacker playing for a Midwestern football team. If you turn on his tape, you can envision him having a successful career in the Big 10 like fellow teammate and Michigan graduate Jake Ryan.
Martinez defended close to a 50/50 split of running and passing plays. When healthy, Green Bay preferred Martinez over Ryan. The Packers deployed an approach in 2016 where they sought to maximize their players’ best qualities – for example, Julius Peppers played predominantly on passing downs. Martinez was Green Bay’s every down linebacker.
The rookie was not favorably ranked by analytics site Pro Football Focus, grading him out in the bottom third of linebackers. The site gave him high marks against the run (76.0/100), but was critical of his coverage skills (41.7/100). His low number as a coverage linebacker ranked him in the bottom five of qualified linebackers.
Expectations were too high for Martinez as a rookie in hindsight. While it was a fine season for the Stanford graduate, injuries and a few too many completions allowed put a small damper on his rookie campaign.
The future is bright for Martinez. He enters his first NFL offseason as a starting inside linebacker and has time to soak in the cerebral Dom Capers defense. Of the Packers many promising young players, Martinez ranks at the top for his potential to be a major defensive keystone.