Green Bay Packers

De'Vondre Campbell Gives the Packers LB Corps A Much-Needed Boost

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas (USA TODAY Sports)

Amidst all the noise of the Aaron Rodgers saga, the Green Bay Packers quietly signed linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. Campbell is an experienced, versatile linebacker who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 when Matt LaFleur coached there.

“He’s a big, long guy that can run. Definitely brings a different dynamic to that room in his ability to be able to cover, whether it’s tight ends or backs,” LaFleur said Wednesday. “We think he’s a really versatile player. He’s a great person, first and foremost, which is so important for our team.”

The timing is interesting. The signing comes a day after Pro Football Focus ranked Green Bay’s linebacking corps, which consists of Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin as starters, as dead-last in the NFL.

“Green Bay actually saw some impressive play from Kamal Martin — a fifth-round rookie — last season, albeit on just 190 snaps,” wrote Sam Monson for PFF, “but he looks set to be a backup once again in favor of players who earned PFF grades in the 40s. Throwing at Green Bay’s linebackers last season generated a 121.0 passer rating, the second-highest mark in the NFL.”

Although Barnes and Martin both flashed their rookie seasons, they both also missed time due to injury. Behind them, Green Bay has Oren Burks and Ty Summers, who are mostly special teams players, so more was needed to bolster the depth. On the other hand, Campbell has been durable throughout his career, playing all 48 games for the Cardinals in the last three seasons.

While he isn’t likely to be thrust into a starting spot immediately, he does provide ample competition for a young and inexperienced group. He could win the spot before the summer is over. Campbell has started 70 games in his first five seasons in the NFL, bouncing from the Falcons to the Arizona Cardinals while becoming a valuable veteran voice.

Martin and Barnes have started 20 games combined.

In the last three seasons, Campbell tallied 315 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 31 pressures. He had two interceptions and nine pass breakups in coverage. It is important to note that dropping into coverage is one of Campbell’s weaknesses.

In his career, he has allowed 14 touchdowns, a completion percentage of 76.2, and a 109.8 passer rating. However, he has a significantly higher success rate in zone coverage vs. man coverage. He posted a PFF grade of 69.1 in zone, while he posted a PFF grade of 38.7 in man. So Joe Berry could use more zone coverage to get the most out of him.

He also allowed a 71.2 passer rating in slot coverage last year, corresponding with what LaFleur said about this ability to cover tight ends and running backs. So while Campbell isn’t the best at dropping into coverage, there are ways to put him in the right situation and elevate his abilities.

One of Campbell’s biggest strengths is his speed. He ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash coming out of Minnesota in 2016, highlighting his straight-line speed.

He also rarely misses tackles, which is huge for a Packers run defense that let Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara score touchdowns in which they broke multiple tackles last year. Throughout his career, Campbell averages a 6.9% missed tackle rate, better than the likes of Eric Kendricks and Fred Warner.

Additionally, he had a run-stop percentage of 6.6, tied with Demario Davis. This stat focuses on just running plays, and how many of them constitute a loss for the opposing offense.

Campbell excels in sealing the edge. He does it multiple times a game, something the Packers haven’t seen from their linebackers in a while.

 

As LaFleur pointed out, Campbell’s versatility dictates where he can line up. As an inside linebacker, he predominantly lines up in the box but has 868 snaps on the defensive line and 535 in the slot.

The Packers have one of the better pass-rushing units in the NFL, and Campbell can add to that. He has been used on blitzes in Arizona and Atlanta, averaging two sacks a year since his rookie season.

It remains to be seen how Barry uses Campbell. But throughout OTAs, the Packers rotated three inside linebackers: Kamal Martin, Krys Barnes, and Ty Summers. There is a good chance that Campbell can become one of the three starters by the time training camp rolls around.

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