What started out for Charles Woodson as a possible move to safety has turned into a position he will play for at least 25% of the Green Bay Packers defensive snaps this season.
The Packers know one thing for certain, if they are going to be more successful on defense they must get their best players in position to make plays on every down. That means getting more consistent pass rushers along the defensive line to help take blockers off Clay Matthews and get Woodson in an area on the field where he has the best chance of getting his hands on the ball.
Green Bay could be seen in their base defense 25% of the time last year, a package Woodson now plays safety in. It is safe to say the one thing he has never really done in his career is play the position but if it is what will get him another ring I am sure he does not mind helping the team out any way he can. Another reason Woodson is up for the idea of being the last line of defense is that his chances of intercepting passes and making plays will drastically increase.
Woodson will remain at the slot cornerback position in the nickel package, another defensive alignment the Packers use frequently. However, safeties coach Darren Perry, who played safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers under Dom Capers, would like to see Woodson be free to make plays due to his natural instincts to jump routes. This is something Capers certainly agrees with, which means we could see the 14-year veteran play safety in more than just the base defense.
“He is an aggressive player. He makes plays,” Perry said. “You can’t take that away from him. There may be some times where he may get himself out of position. But that comes along with all the great ones. Sometimes, you’re going to see things that aren’t quite there but you can’t be afraid. Successful people are going to fail at times, but they’re going to win their share of battles and that’s how the great ones operate.”
Just because Woodson is talented enough to play the position, does not mean he will not make mistakes here and there. However, considering Green Bay’s last line of defense was horrendous last season in stopping big-yardage plays, Woodson will certainly be a major upgrade. The Packers are willing to allow him to take chances, even if that means he does not make the play. For them, the gamble is worth it because more times than not the plays he makes are game changers.
The chemistry between Woodson and safety Morgan Burnett is good with the more time they play together the better it will get. It is critical for both safeties to play well with each other and anticipate the other person’s move. Woodson must know where Burnett will be on the field at all times and vice versa.
“I like what I see in Charles and Morgan working together because they’re bright guys and they’re both good athletes,” Capers said. “I think that’s one of the qualities at the safety position that’s important. You have to have guys who are assertive and make split-second decisions and can make all the calls and adjustments. I think both of those guys can do that.”
When Woodson is playing cornerback the Packers will most likely put M.D. Jennings at safety, which could cause some problems for the defensive backs due to having a new face behind them. However, the coaching staff is confident the players will get used to it and once the communication is sound hopefully, it will not affect their play. Not to mention, the extra safety will also create competition over the next few weeks as the Packers could use a third safety in situations when there are four or five wide.
Woodson’s move to safety could ultimately turn out to be a permanent one, which would benefit Green Bay greatly over the next few years. The Packers have several young cornerbacks who are up to the challenge of being a starter and taking on the elite wide receivers of the NFL. Tramon Williams has already proven he can hang with the best of them when healthy and Sam Shields is capable of being a tremendous player once he starts competing at a high level again. Rookie Casey Hayward has already taken huge strides in becoming a playmaker, which gives the coaches more confidence to use more guys in different packages.
It will be exciting to see the opportunities created for Woodson and the other defensive backs. With a solid pass rush that is expected with the new acquisitions and draft picks, I believe the fans will see the same top notch defense they witnessed in 2009 and 2010.