Packers rookie linebacker Sam Barrington played in seven games in 2013, all on special teams, making two tackles and missing one.
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Sam Barrington, inside linebacker / special teams
Season stats: seven games (all on special teams; zero snaps on defense), two tackles, one missed tackle
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: minus-1.5 on special teams
Best game: Week 2 win over Washington (one tackle, 0.5 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 3 loss at Cincinnati (one missed tackle, minus-1.0 PFF rating)
Expectations at the start of the season: Low
Expectations were … Met
Looking live: Sam Barrington was drafted in the seventh round to add depth to an inside linebacker group that seemed to have plenty of options at the position. Though the Packers released D.J. Smith the day before the first round of the draft, they still had Desmond Bishop (not released until mid-June), Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk to fight for the starting jobs. At the backup spots, Jamari Lattimore was emerging, Robert Francois was the steady veteran and Terrell Manning was healthy going into his second NFL season. However, Barrington had several key moments in training camp that helped solidify his eventual spot on the 53-man roster to begin the regular season. By the third day of camp, Barrington was already showing his tenacious approach, even if it wasn’t always the smart thing to do. He made a tackle during a drill that didn’t allow that level of hitting, forcing coach Mike McCarthy to loudly lecture him on the field. Four days later, he got in a scuffle with offensive lineman T.J. Lang, one that resulted in Barrington’s helmet being ripped off. By the final week of training camp, Barrington was on the No. 1 kick return unit and the No. 1 punt return unit, all but solidifying that he had an inside track to make the team. On Aug. 20, Barrington had a performance deserving of the "Movin’ On Up" recognition in the Training Camp Report series when he tipped a pass that led to an interception.
Upon further review: Barrington beat out Manning, a fifth-round pick in 2012, for a roster spot. Green Bay hasn’t had much success with seventh-round picks the past two years, with B.J. Coleman, Andrew Datko and Charles Johnson all no longer with the team, as well as Kevin Dorsey spending his entire rookie season on injured reserve. Barrington gives the Packers their best chance to hit on a player who can contribute in a way that Ryan Taylor (2011) and C.J. Wilson (2010) have. Barrington didn’t do much as a rookie, though. He got on the field for seven games on special teams — and didn’t play at all on defense — before suffering a hamstring injury in Week 9 that landed him on injured reserve. Barrington tackles well, which he showed in kickoff coverage in Week 2, but he also missed a tackle a week later. When a player gets as few opportunities at making a play as what Barrington did, it stands out more when one isn’t capitalized on. It also doesn’t help his case that he only gave the Packers one half of the season and couldn’t deliver on the "availability" portion of McCarthy’s message to players.
Status for 2014: Seventy-five percent chance of being on the Packers’ active roster at the start of the 2014 regular season. It seems very likely that Barrington will get a chance to prove whether he can be one of the big ‘Year 2 jump’ players that McCarthy is always looking for, but after what happened with Manning, it’s clear that general manager Ted Thompson isn’t unwilling to part with a talented recent draft pick if something is missing. With Jones underperforming in 2013 and Francois an unrestricted free agent who is coming off a major injury, Barrington may be in line for decent playing time in 2014. He could be competing with restricted free agent Jamari Lattimore to see which of them is the first inside linebacker off the bench. Barrington has the makeup that makes it seem possible he can outperform Lattimore and contribute soon.