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Ranking the Roster: Nos. 46-48 – Linebackers and Top Guns on Special Teams

Linebackers Randy Ramsey, Oren Burks and Ty Summers were three of the most productive players on special teams in 2020 for the Green Bay Packers.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster ahead of July 28, the first practice of training camp. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.

No. 46: OLB Randy Ramsey (6-3, 238; 25; second year; Arkansas)

Ramsey played as a true freshman at Arkansas in 2014 but was dismissed from the team in 2015 due to academics. He went home to Florida to ponder life and his football future.

“That was one of the lowest points of my life,” Ramsey said. “I honestly didn’t know if I was going to play football again.”

Ramsey took some online classes to get his grades back in order under the supervision of his mom, a longtime teacher.

“He came to work with me and sat in my classroom,” his mom told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “As an educator, I know he had skills. I’ve never quit at anything and I won’t allow him to quit.”

Ramsey had career highs of three sacks and six tackles for losses as a senior in 2018. He went undrafted in 2019 and spent his rookie year on the practice squad. He beat out Tim Williams, a former third-round pick by Baltimore, to make the roster in 2020. With a top-heavy outside linebacker depth chart, Ramsey played only 75 snaps on defense. But he logged 204 on special teams. Despite missing the first three games due to injury, he finished third on the team with nine tackles on special teams.

Like his cousin, Darius Butler, Ramsey was a cornerback for most of his career at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. As a senior, he went from stopping quarterbacks to sacking them with a whopping 25 sacks.

“Going into my senior year, we were kind of short at defensive lineman,” he said. “He told me it doesn’t make sense to cover a guy if we don’t have nobody to get to the quarterback. I actually moved to rush end my senior year, just to help the team. From then, I’ve been at outside linebacker.”

No. 47: ILB Oren Burks (6-3, 233; 26; fourth year; Vanderbilt)

The Packers traded fourth- and fifth-round picks to grab Burks toward the end of the third round in 2018. Given his size (6-foot-3) and coverage experience (a former safety at Vanderbilt), the expectation was Burks would develop into a starter and potentially a three-down linebacker.

“I think because of his athleticism, there’s more of a need for guys like him,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said after drafting Burks. “At the same time, this is no small man now. He’s over 6-3, he’s 233 pounds, he was the No. 1 tester of the inside linebackers on our board. So, he is not small by any means for today’s inside linebackers. We think he’s very versatile the fact he can play both inside spots. We think his best football is ahead of him. The athletic gifts he has and his two years of experience as a linebacker, we think it’s all headed in the right direction.”

So much for that.

In three NFL seasons, he’s played merely 275 defensive snaps. He hasn’t started a game since his rookie season. Last year, the Packers experimented with Burks at outside linebacker and let an undrafted rookie, Krys Barnes, become the every-down player on the inside.

Burks is back as a full-time inside linebacker but the competition to make the roster, let alone earn playing time, will be stiff. The rookie duo of Barnes and Kamal Martin emerged as the primary tandem last season. Plus, the team added veteran starter De’Vondre Campbell last month and used a sixth-round pick on Isaiah McDuffie in April.

Special teams production isn’t exactly what a team wants with an early pick but Burks was second on the team with 10 tackles during the regular season and second with three more in the postseason. He led the team with 335 snaps on special teams.

Will Burks get a new lease on his defensive life under new coordinator Joe Barry, who’s a linebackers coach by trade? Will there be a larger focus on special teams this summer to give new coordinator Maurice Drayton a real shot at turning around those units? Or will the Packers move on, regardless of special teams production, and create $945,000 of badly needed cap space?

No. 48: ILB Ty Summers (6-1, 241; 25; third year; TCU)

What Summers said during training camp last summer applies today.

“I have one of those personalities that I like to bring energy, excitement, motivate guys,” he said. “If my role again this year was just all four phases of special teams, I’m going to be the best leader that I can in that environment and continue to push the guys at linebacker to make them better, too. But I think that’s going to be my emphasis this year. Of course, I’m grinding trying to compete for that job because I’d love to get more reps. I’d love to play some defense. I came here to play linebacker. But, if special teams is my role again, I’m going to give it everything that I got.”

Summers plays with ample energy. That was evident in his production. After not playing any defensive snaps as a seventh-round pick in 2019, he recorded 27 tackles in 176 snaps in 2020. That’s a tackle rate of one for every 6.52 snaps. For comparison, Blake Martinez averaged one tackle for every 6.50 snaps in his first season with the Giants. Sixteen of those tackles came in Week 3 vs. New Orleans and Week 4 vs. Atlanta.

Reliability, however, made him more of an option of last resort when injuries struck those ahead of him on the depth chart. When he was in the game, opposing quarterbacks played catch with whatever receiver was in Summers’ zone. According to PFF, he allowed 23-of-24 passing in 112 coverage snaps.

However, a solid player on special teams represents solid value with a seventh-round pick. Last year, Summers led the team with 12 tackles on special teams.

Countdown to Packers Training Camp

Feature: Bronson Kaufusi's position change

Training Camp schedule

30 Days Until Training Camp: Potential cuts

29 Days Until Training Camp: First-year starting QBs

28 Days: Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon and top running back tandems

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27 Days: Record-setting red-zone dominance

26 Days: In Wisconsin sports, misery loves company

25 Days: Matt LaFleur's record-setting start

24 Days: The triumph of turnovers and the one that got away

23 Days: Jaire Alexander

22 Days: Green Bay's record-setting second quarter

21 Days: Aaron Jones' place in NFL history

20 Days: How many kicks has Crosby missed since 2018 at Detroit?

19 Days: Eliminating big-play passes

18 Days: The snubbed star, Za'Darius Smith

Ranking the Roster

Nos. 49-51: Jace Sternberger, Dominique Dafney, Hunter Bradley

Nos. 52-54: Yosh Nijman, Ben Braden, Simon Stepaniak

No. 55: Cole Van Lanen

Nos. 56-58: Isaiah McDuffie, Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai

Nos. 59-61: Kurt Benkert, Juwann Winfree, Malik Taylor

Nos. 62-64: Patrick Taylor, Dexter Williams, Isaac Nauta

Nos. 65-67: Ka'dar Hollman, Kabion Ento, Stanford Samuels

Nos. 68-70: Jake Hanson and two specialist challengers

Nos. 71-74: Christian Uphoff, Henry Black, Innis Gaines, Jake Dolegala

Nos. 75-77: Coy Cronk, Willington Previlon, Jack Heflin

Nos. 78-80: Delontae Scott, Carlo Kemp, Bronson Kaufusi

No. 81: WR Bailey Gaither

Nos. 82-84: WRs Reggie Begelton, Chris Blair, DeAndre Thompkins

Nos. 85-88: LBs Ray Wilborn, Scoota Harris; OL Zach Johnson, Jacob Capra

No. 89: G Jon Dietzen

No. 90: K JJ Molson