‘Relentless’ Packers Rookie Jake Ryan Shows Nose for Ball

In his first significant playing time, the fourth-round draft pick had six tackles vs. Carolina and could start vs. Detroit.

When Scott McCurley, the Green Bay Packers’ assistant linebackers coach, studied Jake Ryan’s college tape before the draft, one thing stood out.

“I think the biggest thing that showed up at Michigan was his relentlessness,” McCurley said on Thursday.

That’s what showed up on Sunday at Carolina. Ryan replaced Nate Palmer at inside linebacker in the second quarter, played 39 snaps in the most extensive playing time of his young career and was in on 10 tackles. While the coaches credited Ryan with only six tackles, the attacking, get-to-the-ball mentality Ryan flashed on a weekly basis in college showed up against the Panthers.

“It’s always a learning experience — some good, some bad — as a guy comes along,” said McCurley, who works mostly with the inside linebackers. “He’s just relentless to the ball. I think the stats probably lend to that fact about his ability to get to the ball. He just needs to keep working on making it easier earlier in the down to do that, whether it be his vision or footwork or all those techniques and fundamentals that you continually work on and make it easier for him to get to those plays and do those things.”

Ryan saw the same things upon viewing the film.

“Good, but there’s some things I need to correct and some things that I need to do better,” he said on Wednesday. “Just looking at the film, there’s some minor things that I need to look at and, with repetition, I can get it done.”

At 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds with a 4.65-second clocking in the 40-yard dash, Ryan boasted one of the best size-speed combinations in this year’s draft class. The Packers were thrilled that he was available in the fourth round after piling up 112 tackles during his final season.

“He finds a way to finish to that ball,” McCurley said. “Whether or not his initial read or instinct was that clean, he finds a way to get to the ball. Even though he wasn’t a natural inside linebacker by trade — they didn’t move him there until his last year — he continues to improve in his vision and being able to play on the inside.”

Ryan comes from a football family. His grandfather, Francis Sweeney, played collegiately at Xavier and had a brief career in the CFL. Following football, he worked his way through law school and eventually served 12 years on the Ohio Supreme Court.

His father, Tim Ryan, is one of the all-time leading receivers at Wake Forest. An older brother was a wide receiver at Ball State and his younger brother is a junior linebacker and three-year starter at that school. So, with that background, Jake Ryan’s nose for the football is one part genetics, one part film study.

“It’s everything,” he said. “It’s how you prepare, it’s everything that goes into the week. People say it’s instincts, people say it’s film work but it’s got to be both. It’s everything during the week that you do.”

Ryan never made a strong push for a starting job during training camp and was beaten out by Palmer. Coach Mike McCarthy wouldn’t say a lineup change would be made this week but, at the very least, it appears Ryan has put himself in the mix to get significant playing time going forward.

“I’m going through it like I always have,” Ryan said. “I’m looking at the film and studying as much film as I always do and looking at the playbook as much as I do every single week. Just a normal week for me.”

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.

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