GREEN BAY – Throughout his rookie training camp, inside linebacker Jake Ryan often said his top priority was to study film to improve his game.
That hasn’t changed, and it certainly won’t now after Ryan got the most extensive playing time on defense in his young career on Sunday in Carolina.
Inserted into the game in the second quarter in place of Nate Palmer, Ryan played the rest of the way and rose to the top of the defensive stat sheet.
The press box statistics credited him with a team-best 10 tackles (six solo, four assists), including one for loss.
Afterward, Ryan said he wasn’t nervous at all when he got thrown into the game, and he was more than ready to get back to reviewing his performance, as he always does. It wasn’t a “clean” performance, according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who graded Ryan’s work “OK.”
“I’ve got to watch the film and correct myself in a couple things,” Ryan said. “Overall, I was just trying to get in there, make plays and make calls for the defense.”
Ryan, a rookie fourth-round pick from Michigan, took a step up the depth chart when starting inside linebacker Sam Barrington was lost for the season to a foot injury in Week 1. Palmer replaced Barrington in the starting lineup as Ryan remained on special teams.
Ryan then missed the first two games in October due to a hamstring injury, but since coming back he’s taken more snaps on defense while also being one of the team leaders in special-teams tackles with five.
Against the Panthers, Ryan was active against both running back Jonathan Stewart and quarterback Cam Newton, as the Packers defense settled down in the second half and allowed just 10 points. He helped get Newton down on a fourth-quarter scramble that ended up leading to a punt when the Packers successfully challenged the spot of the ball.
“You always have to wait for the review to be done, but Cam is a great dual-threat quarterback,” Ryan said. “He’s great running the ball, he’s great passing the ball. It’s always tough tackling him.”
Ryan was a tackling machine at Michigan, moving from outside to inside linebacker late in his college career. He looked like that again at times on Sunday.
Whether that performance leads to a larger role on defense for Ryan, time will tell. It wasn’t a perfect outing by any means, but Ryan knows that, and he believes he’s ready for whatever he’s asked to do.
“Absolutely, yes,” he said. “But like I said before, I have to get in the film room, get my body right, and get my stuff corrected.”