State of the Green Bay Packers: Secondary
State of the Green Bay Packers: the Secondary
My heart is still mending from the news of the Green Bay Packers releasing Charles Woodson, but the loss of the veteran safety necessitates a closer look at the Packers secondary. A large part of the reason Green Bay was willing to lose Woodson’s leadership and skills (as well as his contract) is because the team has a lot of confidence in their secondary.
There is, of course, room for improvement, but the Packers have a good, young foundation in the secondary. With Woodson’s 15 years of experience now gone, Tramon Williams is the most veteran defensive back on the team with more than double the experience of the next most experienced player. Despite their youth, there are several first- and second-year players who made big contributions in 2012.
The biggest concern has been, and remains, at safety. Even with Woodson playing a hybrid cornerback-safety role, the Packers have not been able to fill the shoes of Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, who suffered a career-ending neck injury early in the 2011 season. Collins was a perfect example of you-don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-till-it’s-gone, and each player the Packers have tried to plug in at safety has only shown just how special Collins was.
Though the Green Bay defensive line has tons of problems of its own, the Packers secondary does need to take some of the blame for the team’s poor defensive performance, especially when it counts the most. The Packers have had ignominious exits from the playoffs in back-to-back seasons due to complete and total defensive meltdowns. For all the talk of the Packers early offensive “struggles,” it’s clear to any fan that the problem with this team rests with the defense.
Click through at the top of the page to review and assess the state of the Green Bay secondary.
Sam Shields, CB
I’m head over heels with the way Sam Shields has improved in coverage. He was the Packers best and most consistent cornerback this season, and he never let the officials’ seeming vendetta against him make him hesitant in coverage. He struggled most of 2011 - showing skill and speed, but unable to learn the defense well enough - and was leapfrogged in training camp by a couple of other players, but when he did get an opportunity, Shields came through strong.
Casey Hayward, CB
The little rookie made quite a splash in Green Bay and led the team in both interceptions (six) and passes defended (21). Most impressive is the fact that opposing quarterbacks’ passer rating against Hayward was just 31.1, the best mark of any cornerback in the league. Also, Hayward did not allow a single touchdown this season. This one’s a keeper.
Tramon Williams, CB
This was not Tramon’s year. Packer fans were hoping the cornerback would bounce back from a horrible 2011 season that saw him vastly limited due to a shoulder injury. Though Williams wasn’t terrible in one-on-one coverage (particularly against Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall), he seemed to be always about four steps behind the receiver in zone coverage. And let’s not even talk about his play against the run. The only thing that can be said on his behalf in that respect is that the entire Packers secondary - heck, team - was terrible in run coverage.
With Woodson gone, Williams is by far the most experienced defensive back (Jarrett Bush does not count as a DB!). The Packers will need him to step up his production on the field, as well as in a leadership role.
Morgan Burnett, S
Burnett had a very consistent season for Green Bay. He was actually one of only four non-offensive lineman in the league to play every snap for his team this season, so, good for you, Morgan. He also was one of the least penalized defensive backs. 2012 was a pretty good year for Burnett, but the Packers need more than pretty good. I think Burnett’s arrow is pointing upwards, however, and he will continue to improve with more experience.
M.D. Jennings, S
Jennings was the next man up after Woodson broke his collarbone, and played solidly in his stead. Like Burnett, Jennings was pretty good this season, but the defense will need more from him in 2013.
Jennings did have the game-winning interception in Week 3 on the last play of Green Bay’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks - oh, wait …
Davon House, CB - House is one of the players I’m most looking forward to seeing in 2013. The second-year player was set to steal the starting cornerback position in training camp until he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. When he saw the field, he had some strong moments, but lost playing time when Shields returned from injury. He’s a big, physical guy who could develop into the Packers’ safety of the future.
Jerron McMillian, S - With Woodson’s injury, the rookie saw a little bit more playing time than expected. He did pretty well with his limited time on the field, defending five passes, notching an interception and recovering a fumble.
Sean Richardson, S - The undrafted rookie saw limited playing time before landing on the injured with a back injury. Fans will just have to wait and see to get a real feel for Richardson’s skills and ability to contribute.
Jarrett Bush, CB - He’s really good at special teams; he should stay there.