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Countdown to Camp: De'Vondre Campbell's addition marked turning point for defense

Packers looking for young edge rushers to emerge behind Preston Smith and Rashan Gary

LB De'Vondre Campbell
LB De'Vondre Campbell

"Countdown to Camp" is a daily look at the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the start of training camp. The series continues with the linebackers.

GREEN BAY – De'Vondre Campbell is no longer the NFL's best-kept secret.

The seventh-year veteran re-introduced himself to the league in 2021, parlaying a one-year contract with the Packers into a career-defining season.

A productive and accountable starter during his first five NFL seasons, Campbell was given the playmaking keys to Green Bay’s defense and performed at an All-Pro level as the featured "Mike" linebacker for first-year coordinator Joe Barry's unit.

Campbell not only led the Packers with 145 tackles last season but also was credited by Pro Football Focus as the only inside linebacker to record more than 80 solo tackles with fewer than 10 missed tackles. PFF cited him for just four.

An unrestricted free agent in March, Campbell opted to run it back with Green Bay and build upon what he and the Packers' top-10 defense accomplished last season.

He won't be alone.

Along with returning third-year veteran Krys Barnes, the Packers drafted Georgia's Quay Walker with the first of their two first-round picks.

Walker started all 15 games for the national champions, notching a career-high 67 tackles with 25 quarterback pressures. Similar in stature to the seventh-year veteran Campbell, the 6-foot-4, 241-pound Walker solidified himself as a first-round pick after running a 4.52 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Green Bay wasted no time working Walker in with the first-team defense this spring, as the Packers look to expand the breadth of their nickel sub-package.

Barnes has been steady since first arriving in Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2020. While Barnes ceded the "Mike" role to Campbell last year, the 6-foot-2, 229-pound linebacker still finished with 79 tackles in 527 defensive snaps.

The following is the sixth installment in a series of photos examining the Packers' roster position by position. This installment examines the linebackers.

Also competing for roles inside are fourth-year veteran Ty Summers, 2021 sixth-round pick Isaiah McDuffie, practice-squad holdover Ray Wilborn, and undrafted rookies Caliph Brice and Ellis Brooks.

Outside, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary are now the faces of the Packers' edge rush.

Smith returns after a nine-sack campaign that earned him a contract extension in March. The 29-year-old pass rusher has missed just one NFL game in seven seasons, sitting out last year's 24-10 win over Washington due to an oblique strain.

Gary came into his own during his first season as a full-fledged starter, leading Green Bay with 28 quarterback hits, 9½ sacks and two forced fumbles. He won't turn 25 until December.

The two pass rushers combined for 1,380 defensive snaps last year, which lessened the sting of losing Za'Darius Smith to a back injury for most of the 2021 season.

While the starting tandem is set, Green Bay is in search of another outsider linebacker after Whitney Mercilus' retirement and Za'Darius Smith's release.

General Manager Brian Gutekunst addressed the position on the third day of this year's draft, selecting South Carolina's Kingsley Enagbare in the fifth round.

Enagbare was a steady pass-rushing presence for the Gamecocks, recording 121 tackles (24 for a loss) with 15 sacks over four collegiate seasons. He fell in the draft in part due to a 4.87 time in the 40 at the combine but has ideal size (6-4, 258) and explosivity (36½-inch vertical) for the position.

Enagbare will compete this summer with returning veterans Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai and La'Darius Hamilton, who all saw action in Green Bay's defense last year. Garvin, who'll turn 23 on July 28, has 24 tackles and 1½ sacks in 24 career games.

The Packers also are slated to get back third-year linebacker Randy Ramsey, who was one of the team's top special-teams performers in 2020 before suffering a season-ending ankle injury during training camp last summer.

Filling out the room are undrafted rookie Chauncey Manac and Kobe Jones, who was signed after a successful tryout at rookie minicamp in May.

Countdown to Camp series

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