Packers 2017 Recap: LB Joe Thomas

It was a banner year for two of the Packers’ middle linebackers. Blake Martinez led the NFL in tackles, and Jake Ryan showed significant improvement. Then, defensive coordinator Dom Capers experimented with playing safeties as linebackers to get the best 11 men on the field.

It all spelled fewer opportunities for linebacker Joe Thomas, one of the best stories from the 2016 season. Thomas started that season as a part-time dime linebacker and would finish the year as the team’s top inside linebacker.

This year was a different story.

2017 Stats

  • Appeared in 12 games, started 1 game
  • 12 tackles, 1 pass defended, 0.5 sacks

Expectations going into the season: Moderate
Expectations were: Not met

What we said after last season

Packers 2016 Recap: LB Joe Thomas – Thomas played the most snaps out of any of the Packers’ three main inside linebackers (Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan and Thomas) with 634 and finished fourth on the team with 70 tackles. The high point of the season came in mid-October, when Martinez saw his role reduced to just 15 snaps on a Sunday night against the Giants thanks to Thomas.

Analysis: Thomas struggles in limited action

It takes a special kind of player to come in cold off the sidelines and perform at a high level. Some players need to get in a rhythm and see a few plays before they settle in. Perhaps a significant decrease in linebacker Joe Thomas’ performance can be attributed to that.

In 2016, Thomas saw 632 defensive snaps, good for seventh on the team and 61 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps. This year, he was on the field for 104 defensive snaps – just under ten percent of the team’s total defensive snaps.

When the linebacker played significant snaps against the Carolina Panthers late in the season, he performed well against the run but struggled in pass coverage. He helped covered tight end Greg Olsen – nine catches for 116 yards – and running back Christian McCaffrey – six catches for 73 yards. It didn’t go well.

On the bright side, Thomas was one of six Packers defenders to go the entire 2017 campaign without a penalty.