Which Packers Defensive Players Took the Biggest Step Backward in 2011?
Man, this blog has turned into a depressing place this week. Scroll through the titles of the last couple of posts and you’ll see words like “regression” and “loss” mixed with phrases like “it’s over” and “fart in the wind.”
It’s probably best to make sure you don’t have any sharp objects nearby while reading.
This post is no exception. After coming up big in 2010, several Packers on defense took a step backwards. Who regressed the most?
After Williams got the best of Calvin Johnson on Thanksgiving, I thought the Tramon of 2010 was back. It looked like he was healthy and ready to blanket the other team’s No. 1 receiver as the Packers headed down the home stretch.
It didn’t happen.
Instead of taking the next step and establishing himself as a legit No. 1 CB in the NFL, Williams started giving up big play after big play. In addition to struggling in coverage, Williams was a tackling liability (his tackling was especially pathetic in the Christmas game against the Bears). He capped his lackluster season by allowing seven catches in eight attempts for 125 yards in the playoff loss to the Giants.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Williams was watching him constantly line up 10 yards off the receiver he was matched against, even on plays when the offense needed five yards or fewer for a first down. Maybe Williams’ shoulder never healed after the Saints game. Maybe he did the best he could with the Packers bad pass rush. Maybe he missed Nick Collins.
Either way, Williams regressed in 2011.
Mike McCarthy spent a good part of his season-ending news conference talking about how bad his team’s tackling was this season. He could’ve saved everyone some time and showed film of Hawk bouncing off ball carriers or getting dragged for three extra yards after initial contact on play after play.
Hawk signed a 5-year, $34 million contract in the offseason and did very little to justify the Packers’ investment. After averaging almost seven tackles per game in 2010, Hawk only managed 5.5 in 2011. He was also a major liability in pass coverage.
The intangibles that Hawk supposedly provided as the defensive signal caller also proved to be expendable. The Packers defense seemed to function just fine with D.J. Smith calling the shots when Hawk missed a few games with a calf injury.
Hawk’s 2010 season put him in good favor with most Packers fans. His regression in 2011 returns him to the familiar role of team punching bag.
Almost as frustrating as watching Tramon give WRs a 10-yard cushion was watching Shields get pushed around by whomever he was trying to guard.
I’m probably being a little too harsh on Shields — he’s only played CB for two seasons — but he definitely regressed. Shields should benefit from an offseason where he can get coached up on proper technique and form. He could also use a kick in the behind to get him more aggressive when the ball is in the air and meaner when making a tackle.
Maybe Shields regression was to be expected, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Hopefully it was more growing pains than a permanent step backward.
Lets be clear: Peprah is a backup. He doesn’t belong in the starting lineup. It’s unfair to judge him against starting safeties.
However, Peprah spent most of this season playing below even a backup level. He got burned over and over again on deep throws, had no chance covering tight ends, and seemed to equate tackling with the game of pinball (see Hakeem Nicks’s first TD on Sunday).
Peprah filled in adequately last season when he teamed with pro-bowler Nick Collins. There was no Collins to cover for Peprah in 2011, and it showed.
It’s unrealistic to expect Peprah to be something he’s not. But there’s nothing wrong with expecting Peprah to at least be an adequate backup. He never even reached that level.
Mike Neal, Erik Walden and Howard Green.