July 6, 2022

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Veteran core, rookie additions have Joe Barry…

3 min read
Veteran core, rookie additions have Joe Barry...

This offseason, Campbell will welcome a highly touted prospect to the inside linebacker room in Walker, whose 6-foot-4, 241-pound stature mirrors that of Campbell’s.

Walker was a 15-game starter for the national champions this past season, registering 67 tackles (5½ for a loss) and 25 quarterback pressures. His size and 4.52 time in the 40 at the combine ultimately led to the Packers investing a first-round pick into an inside linebacker for the first time in 16 years.

Roughly an hour after taking Walker 22nd overall, Green Bay doubled down on Bulldogs when they drafted his teammate, Wyatt, at No. 28. The 6-foot-3, 304-pound defensive lineman recorded 39 tackles and 27 pressures in 14 games in 2021.

In the long term, Walker and Wyatt appear to possess the type of three-down versatility that could afford Barry increased flexibility with how he wants to deploy his nickel sub-package.

“I spring out of bed every single day and sprint to the office knowing they’re gonna be here,” said Barry of Walker and Wyatt. “This time is invaluable to everybody but specifically young guys like Quay and D-Wyatt who are coming in as rookies and learning a brand new way of language, a brand new playbook.”

Possibly the Packers’ biggest reason for optimism wasn’t a free-agent signing or rookie draft pick, but rather the return of All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, who missed most of 2021 due to a shoulder injury he sustained in Week 4 against Pittsburgh.

The 25-year-old cornerback returned for an eight-snap appearance against San Francisco in the NFC Divisional playoffs, but Alexander still wasn’t quite back to 100%.

Perhaps the only silver lining to Alexander’s absence was it led to Green Bay signing Douglas off Arizona’s practice squad. The eventual Pro Bowl alternate went on to lead the Packers’ defense with five interceptions (two returned for a touchdown) in just 12 regular-season appearances.

With Douglas re-signed and 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes coming off an impressive rookie season, Barry has a lot of options in the secondary with Alexander back in the mix.

“A lot of guys would have just cashed it in and said, ‘Hey, I’ll see you in May,'” Barry said of Alexander’s brief return for the postseason. “He busted his butt to get back and really was not 100%. He played his butt off in that playoff game.

“It goes to show you what kind of character he has, what he’s all about. You talk about football character, Jaire Alexander has it. It’s exciting to have obviously Jaire, to have Eric, to get Rasul back in free agency was great.”

The Packers also bring back two-time Pro Bowler Kenny Clark, sack leader Rashan Gary, starting safeties Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos, and veteran stalwart Dean Lowry, who’s coming off his best NFL season.

It has Barry and his staff primed and ready to get to work on improving a defensive unit that gave up just six points during last January’s playoff loss to the 49ers.

“Our goal is to play great every single week and we got a bunch of guys in that locker room that have that mindset,” Barry said. “We’re chomping at the bit to get started.”