Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling stood together in Cincinnati last month praising D’Vondre Campbell’s work.
The Packers’ new inside linebacker had nine tackles, broke a pass and trapped another that day, helping Green Bay edge the Bengals.
“We just said, ‘How was this guy on the street?'” Rodgers recounted. “It’s a great pickup by our personnel guys. He can run, he’s a great tackler, he’s around the ball all the time, he’s a great locker room guy. I mean, it’s shocking to me ”
When Packers GM Brian Gutkunst signed a sixth-year pro to a one-year, $2 million contract in June, it appeared to be a modest move, even as Campbell scored 70 more in four solid but unexpected seasons with the Falcons. Had a start with the Cardinals.
Instead, he has become a key factor in Green Bay’s 7-2 start, one of the best deals in the league and the top defensive breakout in 2021 at the age of 28.
Campbell has a team-high 82 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack. He’s played at Pro Bowl level and given the Packers a dynamic inside linebacker they’ve lacked in recent seasons, while helping the defense deal with injuries to pass Rasher Zadarius Smith and cornerback Jair Alexander.
“He’s a man we’re really lucky to have,” Rodgers said.
And really, most could have gotten to him.
“I definitely had other offers but I wanted to be part of a winning organization and be able to show what I could do,” Campbell said recently. “I always knew what I was capable of, but I just wanted to be where I had a bigger chance of winning.”
Icing for Campbell was reuniting with Packers coach Matt LaFleur, who was in his final years as Falcons quarterback coach, in Campbell’s rookie season in Atlanta in 2016.
Campbell, who debuted in Super Bowl 51 against New England and made four tackles, earned his first NFC Defensive Player of the Month honor in October when he made 45 tackles, forced two fumbles, broke two passes, One was intercepted and one was a sack.
He made seven tackles in a 13-7 loss to Green Bay in Kansas City on Sunday, when Packers’ patchwork defense kept Patrick Mahomes for 166 yards Lowest production in Mahomes’ career, for 234 yards through the air and chiefs.
Maybe it should come as no surprise to anyone that Campbell is stepping out into mature football at age 28. He didn’t play football until his middle year of high school and his lone scholarship offer came from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, where he was teammate with Cordrell Patterson. He transferred to Minnesota after one season and was picked by the Falcons in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.
Several other players have emerged as defensive playwrights during the first half of the 2021 season. from them:
Dallas Cornerback Trayvon Diggs
The Cowboys’ 2020 second-round draft substitute out of Alabama had a decent rookie season with three interceptions and 58 tackles in a dozen games. This season, he had interceptions in each of Dallas’ first six games, including a pairing against Carolina. He’s had two pick-6s and his 12 pass breakups are two shy of his rookie total.
Denver Inside Linebacker Kenny Young
Young is the other linebacker involved in a Rams-Broncos trade in midseason. The Broncos sent Von Miller a week ago For a pair of high draft picks, Denver acquired Young from the Rams, where the fourth-year pro finished second with 46 tackles, including a team-leading six for a loss in their breakthrough fourth NFL season. . He had seven more in Denver.
Tennessee outside linebacker Harold Landry
The Titans’ 2018 second-round draft picks have nine sacks in nine games, matching their career-high set in a full season in 2019. That’s a big reason Tennessee (7-2) has the top AFC record and had a great game. The Titans had a 28-16 win over the Rams on Sunday night when he shared a sack and hit Matthew Stafford on three other occasions.
Arizona linebacker Isaiah Simmons
The eighth overall pick in the 2020 draft, the former Clemson star had a decent rookie season but started only seven times. His 59 tackles in nine games this year already topped 54, and he is a key part of the Cardinals’ 8-1 start, one of the best in the NFL. He forcefully fumbled three times, picked up a pass and broke four other throws.
NWN Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee and NWN Sports Writer Steve Megargi in Green Bay, Wisconsin contributed.
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