Isaiah McDuffie Has Stepped Up for the Packers This Season

Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Isaiah McDuffie has taken a big step forward this season. While the third-year man out of Boston College started the 2023 campaign as a backup and core member of the special teams units, he has stepped into the starting lineup when injuries hit and has taken a significant step forward with his play on defense.

McDuffie has started four of the Packers eight games at inside linebacker this season due to injuries to both starters at the position, De’Vondre Campbell, and Quay Walker. Despite starting only half the team’s games and playing only 47 percent of the Packers defensive snaps, he presently ranks third on the team with 43 total tackles. That includes three tackles for loss, two of which came in last week’s win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Head coach Matt LaFleur was quick to notice the strong play of McDuffie who was starting in place of Quay Walker in that game. “Isaiah McDuffie, I felt like he was all over the place, and our guys were making plays. They were having fun, and they were competing, and that’s really all you can ask for is guys trusting what you see in front of you and going out and playing fast, playing physical and playing together and doing your job.”

McDuffie did a great job of helping to stuff the Rams running game.  and most of his six solo tackles in the game came close to the line of scrimmage. He’s been aggressive and a sound tackler.

In the game, the Packers held the Rams to just 68 yards rushing on 26 carries or an average of less than three yards per carry.

Missed tackles have been a problem for the Packers in recent years, but through eight games, McDuffie has missed only two tackles according to pro-football-reference.com.

For the former Boston College star, there have been a few simple reasons for his progress in this, his third NFL campaign.

“Another year of experience,” said McDuffie of his play this season. “Again, it just starts up front, and they played very well yesterday, and it helped me play good.”

McDuffie’s football intelligence came in handy when he replaced Campbell in the lineup because he was asked to call the defensive signals on short notice. He stepped up and did a very good job of it.

When both Campbell and Walker are healthy, they are likely to get the majority of the reps, but McDuffie knows he always has to be ready to contribute on defense.

“You just have to have the mentality next man up, honestly,” said McDuffie on Monday. “Really the approach you have to take is always focus on your job and if something happens, be ready. If you’re ready, you don’t have to get ready.”

McDuffie was a productive player in college. But his lack of size helped him slide to the 6th round of the 2021 NFL Draft. McDuffie was always considered an intelligent football player but at 6’1” and 227 pounds, his biggest issue was shedding blocks to make plays. But this season he’s done a better job of that and the results on the field have been noticeable.

Linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti had praise for McDuffie and fellow backup inside linebacker Eric Wilson last month for the job they’ve done so far this season.

“I was pretty proud of the way Isaiah and Eric stepped up in the last game and just overall how they are as guys around the building,” Olivadotti said. “No matter the circumstances, they’re the same every day, and they’re going to come to work every day and really try to put their best foot forward and get themselves prepared the same all the time, which makes everybody’s life easier because now De’Vondre can concentrate on getting himself healthy.”

The Packers are still not certain when Walker will be back in the lineup. He didn’t practice Wednesday because of a groin injury. If he’s not ready, McDuffie will be ready to fill in and do his job. And the way he’s gone about it will give his teammates and his coaches confidence that the job is in good hands with McDuffie.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

NFL Categories: 
5 points
 

Comments (18)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
T7Steve's picture

November 09, 2023 at 11:41 am

" his biggest issue was shedding blocks to make plays. But this season he’s done a better job of that and the results on the field have been noticeable."

Even he said above, that "the guys were doing their jobs up front". That's what those guys need to do is keep the blockers off the ILBs. Eventually (as happened against the Rams) that generates opportunities for the guys up front too.

5 points
5
0
Packerpasty's picture

November 09, 2023 at 12:16 pm

Is it how the Packers use their rookies or is this another dumb pick up near the top of the draft...It was to many, another "head scratcher".... ""Over at Bleacher Report, Ryan Fowler handed out grades for this year’s first-round rookies at the midway point of the season. Look away Packers fans, as Fowler gave Van Ness an overall grade of D, one of the lowest in the group.
“Inconsistent playing time has hurt Lukas Van Ness’ ability to get in a rhythm.
His production simply hasn’t been there. An ideal fit in the hybrid fronts that Green Bay deploys, Van Ness has recorded just two pressures since Week 1 and is someone who remains a rotational ‘DPR’ (designated pass-rusher) on long down-and-distances. Through nine weeks, expectations have not been met by the No. 13 overall pick,” Fowler wrote.
Given the youth movement the Packers underwent this offseason, it is peculiar that Van Ness hasn’t been able to get into the lineup more. The versatility that he showed at Iowa, lining up all along the defensive line, is something many people thought defensive coordinator Joe Barry would take advantage of.
Alas, to this point, that has not been the case. As Fowler noted, Van Ness has been relegated to a part-time role within the defense, only being called upon in obvious passing situations.""

1 points
3
2
CJ Bauckham's picture

November 09, 2023 at 12:59 pm

That's probably the same grade he gave out for Rashan Gary, who like Van Ness had two studs playing in front of him and didn't see the field much his rookie year. There are only so many snaps to go around, and our dline is filled with young players who need them. Give it time.

4 points
5
1
william A VORPAHL's picture

November 09, 2023 at 03:14 pm

is the problem VanNess or the coaching???

1 points
3
2
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 10, 2023 at 08:19 pm

William,

that's my exact point and my answer is a resolute 100% on coaching.

0 points
0
0
Since'75's picture

November 09, 2023 at 04:13 pm

Packerpasty.....

For some reason, a lot of the Packers #1 picks go straight to the bench for a year or two, or three.

IMO, if your going to pick Van Ness at #13, start him.

Like when Gary went to the bench for two years being the 12th pick of the draft.
Right after Gute signed the Smith brothers to over 100 million.

If you deem these players projects that need to develop, are you grading then too high?

Since 2019, 4 of our 1st round picks rode the bench for at least one season, 3 of them longer than that.

Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't a successful 1st round pick, be a starter?

5 points
5
0
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 10, 2023 at 08:18 pm

PP,

thanks for the quote.

I wouldn't consider this a D for LVN, but an F for incompetence by coaches. J Ford playing against run heavy opponents was a no brainer, but he didn't play. If LVN should have been added to the D line I can't say, but you'd think they'd want to teach him skills and use him more.

Normally I'd attribute the lack of learning to the player, but this season it's across the board, with most players regressing. That's a coaching issue.

0 points
0
0
mnbadger's picture

November 09, 2023 at 12:43 pm

nice group of observations, appreciated by me Gil, thank you.
OJMcD was on the larry mccarren mlf show this week and came across as a guy that loves that game and just wants to compete.
Can't have enough guys like that.
Pack 20 - rusty tinners 16.
GPG!

6 points
6
0
GilMartin's picture

November 09, 2023 at 04:07 pm

Thanks, mnbadger. Liking the way McDuffie has picked up his game this season. Got to discuss the good with the struggles. Thanks for the comment and the kind words.

3 points
3
0
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 10, 2023 at 08:23 pm

I'm a big fan of McDuffie. I think he plays better with Campbell than he does with Quay. It's even more impressive what he's able to do at his size, which is almost identical to #45 Wilson, who has played pretty well himself.

GPG!

0 points
0
0
Packer_Fan's picture

November 09, 2023 at 12:48 pm

I agree. He is one of the few young players taking a big step this year. I think McDuffie is the replacement for Campbell next year. The Pack will need to get him more playing time to make that decision easier

7 points
7
0
jannes bjornson's picture

November 09, 2023 at 02:37 pm

He can replace Walker.

-1 points
0
1
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 10, 2023 at 08:31 pm

Jannes,

Quay gets significant disrespect here. I think he's played well this season. I don't think McDuffie can replace him. He's the fastest guy we have at the position, with #45 Wilson almost identical. #46 Philipps is the only other one at the position. (Other than possibly new addition #54 Kristian Welch, who I know nothing about)

2 points
2
0
SicSemperTyrannis's picture

November 10, 2023 at 08:25 pm

Packer Fan,

are you thinking Campbell will simply age out next year? Cap casualty?

0 points
0
0
Since'75's picture

November 09, 2023 at 04:03 pm

McDuffie is 6'1"?

I'm looking at that picture above and i'm thinking 5'10, 5'11" on a reach.

But then again, i've been wrong before, like that time back in 2012.

-1 points
0
1
Coldworld's picture

November 09, 2023 at 06:21 pm

I thought McDuffie played well last year, though he seems to be much more comfortable and thus consistent in his role this year. He was one of the unheralded young depth guys I thought might be more than just depth in a chart. It’s always wonderful to see those guys take a step. Let’s hope it’s one he can maintain.

6 points
6
0
stockholder's picture

November 09, 2023 at 06:54 pm

I thought he stunk last year.
This was his best game.
But Campbell just might be-
why it was.
He did look comfortable.

1 points
1
0
TxFred's picture

November 10, 2023 at 08:39 am

Very good 2nd to 3rd yr jump. Confident and aggressive. Attacks & sheds blockers, onspecial teams and defense.
He actually uses shoulder pads as they were intended, back in the day.
Makes you wonder, how long before the union, nfl & coastal elite marketing guru will outlaw the wearing of shoulder pads?
It will happen.

1 points
1
0