Green Bay Packers

De'Vondre Campbell Is Becoming the Heartbeat Of the Packers' Defense

Photo credit: Mark Hoffman (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Early in the offseason, it appeared the Green Bay Packers would have uncertainties at inside linebacker once again. When they scooped up De’Vondre Campbell in June, the move was almost an afterthought. However, he’s turned into one of the most valuable players on Joe Barry’s defense.

The praise for Campbell started back in August when Matt LaFleur took notice of the veteran linebacker in training camp, Per Madison.com.

“De’Vondre, he has been lights out. He’s done a great job,” LaFleur gushed before the team’s pre-Family Night walk-through. “I think he’s done a really nice job of picking up what we’re asking him to do at a pretty quick rate.”

“You can see the instincts that he has, and he’s very, very fluid. There’s been a couple instances in practice (where he showed) his ability to — whether it’s as a blitzer, whether it’s in coverage — he’s a very, very good athlete. … He’s really going to help our defense.”

Through three weeks, Campbell leads the Packers in tackles (31). He has played 100% of the snaps in the last two games and even dabbled with a couple of special teams snaps against the San Francisco 49ers. He’s not padding his stats, either; Campbell has been flying around the field for Green Bay and has proven his worth. The Packers found a hidden gem if he can sustain anywhere close to this level throughout the season. He’s also only in his sixth season.

If that wasn’t enough, toss in the fact that Campbell has had a radar for the football through the first three games. He intercepted Jared Goff in the second half of Green Bay’s win over the Detroit Lions in Week 2, and he recovered a fumble at a critical time against the 49ers when Green Bay was leading 24-21 in the fourth quarter. Inside linebackers typically aren’t ball-hawks on defense, but Campbell is already putting up numbers.

The big names who will get the hype on this defense are obvious. Jaire Alexander. Za’Darius Smith when he returns. Everyone is smitten with rookie Eric Stokes, and for good reason. It’s rare to see praise heaped upon the linebacker who is constantly in the right place at the right time because it isn’t flashy. Yet quietly — although not so quietly— Campbell has become a rock on Green Bay’s defense.

It’s somewhat of a surprise to see the gears clicking so early. Campbell noted in August that he was still getting into the swing of things with the Packers’ defense because he joined late in the process.

“My situation is a little bit different right now because I signed so late in the offseason,” Campbell explained. “I didn’t have the full offseason with these guys, so right now is where I’m trying to make my adjustments and figure out who the guys are around me, what their strengths and weaknesses are, (and they’re) figuring me out, as well.”

“I think it’s a really good defense. I think everything fits (me). It’s more about just really coming in and doing what I’m asked to do,” Campbell added. “Whatever it is they want me to do, I feel like I’m able to do it.”

Campbell couldn’t have been more spot-on in his assumption. The cherry on top is that he happens to play a position that has long been a trouble spot for the Packers.

Krys Barnes was expected to carry a lot of the weight at inside linebacker after dropping from the clouds in his rookie season last year. Barnes went from undrafted to a can’t-sit guy, and while he’s been fine in more of a spot role before his Week 3 concussion, it’s been Campbell dominating the snap count and production at the position.

Green Bay’s defense is still a work in progress under Barry, who’s in his first year running the show. It was a disaster in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints and was just as bad in the first half of the game against the Lions in Week 2. It started to coalesce in that second half against Detroit, and Green Bay nearly pitched a shutout in the first half against the 49ers.

Alexander had the incredible interception. Kenny Clark supplied plenty of pressure right up the middle, and Stokes was a monster in his first NFL start. Campbell determinedly went about his evening, racking up 12 tackles (six solo) and recovering a fumble in the process. The flashy plays are great from the rest of the defense, but Campbell will make an impact doing it just the way he has.

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