Pat Lee Out, Jarrett Bush In: Looking at the Packers’ Cornerback Situation
Pat Lee’s four years with the Packers have to be considered a disappointment after being drafted in the 2nd round with the 60th overall pick. Lee struggled to make an impact on defense and failed to stick as a return man, but was a contributor in Super Bowl XLV following Charles Woodson’s shoulder injury. Although it didn’t show on the stats (1 tackle), Lee was decent enough to keep the Packers from complete collapse defensively.
There are no immediate plans to move Charles Woodson to safety, so he will continue to cover the slot with Tramon Williams and Sam Shields working the outside. Jarrett Bush will continue to be the team’s fourth cornerback with Davon House taking Pat Lee’s spot behind Bush. That would leave one more roster spot if the Packers keep six corners like they did last season. Brandian Ross from the practice squad will likely compete with a draft pick.
Shields was probably the player most hurt by the lockout and lack of off-season workouts following his successful rookie campaign in 2010. Instead of building on his success, Shields regressed in many ways in 2011, including his tackling and other fundamentals.
Williams struggled throughout the year following a shoulder injury in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. He only missed one week, but it was clear that the shoulder was effecting him throughout the year. With a clean bill of health, Williams will hopefully get back to the success he had in 2010 as one of the league’s top cover-men.
Woodson may have finally started to show his age in 2011 as he missed tackles that you wouldn’t expect out of the potential future hall of famer. Despite this, Woodson still has plenty left to offer and will continue to fill the role of covering the slot receiver.
Bush, with his new contract, will continue to be the Packers’ top special teams player and serve as the nickel back. Bush has improved his defensive play, but still has his issues. He specifically struggles to get his head turned around and locate the football in the last moment.
House, who didn’t see the field on defense at all in 2011, is likely to feature as the Packers fifth cornerback. House was selected in the fourth round in last year’s draft out of New Mexico State.
Brandian Ross was a surprising player last training camp and during the pre-season. He made significant noise during the team’s shortened Family Night Scrimmage picking off Aaron Rodgers and taking it to the house. His playmaking ability during camp earned him a practice squad spot.
It is likely that the Packers will use a draft pick on a cornerback in the mid-to-late rounds and add some additional bodies by signing undrafted free agents. Ross will likely have the opportunity to compete with any rookies that are brought in for the team’s final cornerback spot.
The Packers are currently capable of winning with the group they have in place.
The major reasons the Packers struggled in pass defense were a lack of a pass rush, poor tackling and the absence of Nick Collins.
It is likely the Packers will look to address their pass rushing concerns in the draft. With an improved pass rush and a newfound ability to get to the quarterback, the Packers’ defensive backs should benefit greatly.
Fundamentally, this group needs to be better and part of that may come with having a normal offseason. The team needs to address their tackling issues, something Mike McCarthy has said he will do.
The biggest question mark in the defensive backfield is the health and status of safety Nick Collins. He is scheduled to meet with doctors next week in order to determine whether or not he will be able to return to the NFL following his neck injury.——————
Michael is a sports writer currently attending Seattle University. You can follow Michael on Twitter .