Packers 2017 Recap: LB Blake Martinez

A 2016 fourth round pick, Blake Martinez was one of the early success stories of his draft class until nagging injuries limited his effectiveness.

Entering the 2017 campaign behind Jake Ryan and competing for playing time with Joe Thomas and hybrid safety/linebacker Josh Jones, Martinez looked like he may not have a role in the Packers’ defense.

Instead, he ended up being one of the bright spots on an otherwise dismal unit.

2017 Stats

  • Appeared in 16 games with 16 starts (979 snaps on defense, 115 on special teams)
  • 144 total tackles (94 solo, 48 assists, 2 special teams)
  • One interception, one fumble forced, three fumbles recovered, eight passes defensed

Expectations going into the season: Moderate
Expectations were: Exceeded

What we said last season

Packers 2016 Recap: LB Blake Martinez – 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.

Analysis: Blake Martinez becomes the linebacker he was supposed to be

Other than quarterback, middle linebacker might be the most mythologized position in football.

The mere name of the position conjures up images of gridiron warriors like Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, Ray Lewis, and other hard nosed, hard charging players willing to get down and dirty and get the job done.

The Packers haven’t had such a player in the middle of their defense in a long time, and (rightly or wrongly), fans have long hoped for a standout at the position. It’s under those expectations that Martinez was drafted in 2016.

His rookie year was a disappointment, but as Gary wrote in our recap last year, that’s probably because expectations were too high to begin with. As a rookie, Martinez was expected to be something of a cure all for a defense that needed way more than help at inside linebacker.

But in 2017, facing much lower expectations, Martinez delivered. Though his tackle total probably has something to do with the excellent efforts of Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark in front of him, a league-leading 144 is nothing to sneeze at.

The same goes for his impressive snap totals: Martinez was one of just three players on the team (along with Corey Linsley and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) to play more than 1,000 total snaps on the season across all three phases.

Martinez wasn’t perfect this season. Though consistently good, he was rarely great and he left more than a few big plays on the field. He missed several interceptions throughout the course of the season, including one that could have been a game changer against the Minnesota Vikings. He was also repeatedly victimized in the passing game.

But for all that, Martinez is exactly what the Packers likely hoped he could be: a building block on defense who brings far more to the table than he takes off. His cerebral dependability and assignment surety could big a huge blessing to new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in 2018.