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Ranking the Roster: Nos. 56-58 – Three Linebackers

The Packers used late-round draft picks on Isaiah McDuffie this year and Jonathan Garvin last year.
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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 27, the date veterans will report to 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. 56: ILB Isaiah McDuffie (6-1, 227; 21; rookie; Boston College)

After missing eight games with a knee injury in 2019, Green Bay’s sixth-round pick this year started all 11 games during his final season at Boston College. He posted career highs of 107 tackles, three sacks and 6.5 tackles for losses while recording the only interception. In a career that spanned 40 games with 20 starts, he finished with 230 tackles and eight sacks but only four passes defensed. McDuffie recorded 16 percent of the team's tackles, one of the highest marks in the draft class.

“As a linebacker in the NFL, he can run,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said. “He looks awesome right now. He’s got great speed. I think he ran in the high 4.5s. He’s extremely physical. He plays with his hair on fire. He practices that way. He is extremely tough. I think in a league where you need guys who can run, that’s what he can do. He’s a linebacker who can run, and that’s very important right now in most NFL schemes, the way the game is going.”

McDuffie, who one area scout believed would turn into a Year 2 starter, would have ranked higher on this list if not for the recent free-agent addition of veteran De’Vondre Campbell. It’s a crowded group of inside linebackers with McDuffie joining Campbell, last year’s rookie tandem of Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin, former draft picks Oren Burks and Ty Summers, practice-squad holdover De’Jon Harris, and Ray Wilborn.

“He plays extremely hard,” inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said. “From first impressions, he’s a very serious guy that he’s not afraid of a hard day’s work and he’s not afraid to ask a question if he doesn’t understand something. Which, that’s big, you know? Some guys don’t want to ask the question because they don’t want to pretend like they don’t know something.”

No. 57: OLB Jonathan Garvin (6-4, 257; 21; second year; Miami)

After recording 10.5 sacks and 26 tackles for losses during his final two seasons at Miami, the Packers selected Garvin in the seventh round last year. He made no impact whatsoever on defense, which isn’t surprising considering the guys ahead of him on the depth chart. Nonetheless, his rookie season was a tremendous disappointment.

Linebackers who aren’t mainstays on defense must be contributors on special teams. With their combination of size, speed and experience tackling, they’re natural fits. Instead, even on Green Bay’s disastrous special teams, Garvin couldn’t get on the field. He was inactive for the second half of the season and both playoff games. He finished the season with five tackles in 85 snaps on defense, just one pressure in 55 rushes, and no tackles in 22 snaps on special teams.

Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary are back to command the overwhelming majority of the snaps, but the team didn’t make any noteworthy additions at the position. When the Packers step on the field for the first practice of training camp on July 28, Garvin will be celebrating his 22nd birthday. So, the door is open and Garvin has the potential to take advantage.

“Jonathan is a great kid. He’s compassionate, he’s very intelligent, very analytical,” Todd Stroud, the Hurricanes’ assistant head coach and defensive line coach, told Packer Central last year. “He’s football-smart, he’s a technician, he takes to coaching. He was a pleasure to coach. His upside, I think the Packers got a really good value with that guy just because people don’t realize that kid’s only 20 years old. He’s just starting to scratch the surface of what he could be physically and mentally. He’s got a huge upside. He’s a wonderful kid, he’s respectful, he’s coachable. His best football is certainly in front of him.”

No. 58: OLB Tipa Galeai (6-5, 229; 24; first year; Utah State)

Galeai spent his first two seasons at TCU before transferring to Utah State. After sitting out the 2017 season, Galeai recorded 10.5 sacks, 14 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles as a junior in 2018 and five sacks and nine tackles for losses as a senior in 2019. He went undrafted but the Packers liked him enough to give him a $7,000 signing bonus and guarantee $25,000 of his salary.

Galeai failed to make the roster and spent his rookie season on the practice squad. He was elevated to the gameday roster for one game. That was the opener against Minnesota, when he logged nine snaps on defense and none on special teams.

With no noteworthy additions at outside linebacker, Galeai will get a second chance to make the roster this year. He took full advantage of the second chance he was given at Utah State after he was dismissed from TCU following an arrest.

“When I left TCU, I felt like I didn't know what was next for me, or what I wanted to do,” Galeai told Utah State’s athletics site. “I still wanted to play football, but how was I going to get back into school? A lot of choices were placed in front of me, but for some reason, Utah State was the one that stuck out to me the most. Utah State is exactly what brought me out of that bad position I was in, in my life.”

For all three of these linebackers, special teams almost certainly will be the determining factor on whether they make the roster and are active on Sundays.

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Ranking the Roster

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