23

March

Pat Lee Out, Jarrett Bush In: Looking at the Packers’ Cornerback Situation

Pat LeeWith Pat Lee headed out of Green Bay and Jarrett Bush re-signed for three years, the Packers’ defensive back situation is looking more and more clear for next season.

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.

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Michael is a sports writer currently attending Seattle University. You can follow Michael on Twitter .

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28 Responses to “Pat Lee Out, Jarrett Bush In: Looking at the Packers’ Cornerback Situation”

  1. JimR_in_DC says:

    Michael said: “Woodson may have finally started to show his age in 2011…

    The Packers are currently capable of winning with the group they have in place.”

    The Packers need to find a strong candidate to replace Woodson in the next year or two. In my opinion, that player needs to be added to the roster this year. I hope Ted can find a gem in the middle rounds, as I can imagine the holes at DE, ROLB, S, and C are also priorities.

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  2. Savage57 says:

    Tramon and Wood are going to be OK. If Collins can’t return, focus should be on his replacement. Reliable safety help allows Wood to play his anticipate and gamble game which makes him deadly. What will be key is the progress Sheilds makes in year 3. We’ll see (and keep our fingers crossed) if last year’s drop off was a combination of sophomore let-down and no off-season development or the manifestation of who this guy really is as a DB.

    I hope that House can improve to the level where he replaces Bush as the dime corner. Whenever Bush is on the field, I see a huge target on his back and so does the opposing QB.

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    • Ed Schoenfeld says:

      Early reports about the draft class say that the safety group is weak. So Collins’ replacement may not be available in the draft *as a safety.*

      Signing Bush gives the Packers an option to draft 2 corners (one relatively high) and move Wood to safety if they can’t find a safety prospect who can play right away.

      This is a classic TT free agency signing — its main effect on the roster is to give him additional options in the draft.

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  3. Adam Czech says:

    Big year for Davon House coming up. I don’t expect him to suddenly morph into a starter and turn heads, but he’ll need to prove to the coaching staff that he’s worth developing for 2013 and beyond.

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  4. SchenySchen says:

    The secondary in general is in need of a big year. Tackling or bad tackling in particular by shields,peprah and Williams killed us last year. I look forward to seeing what house and Ross can provide with a full offseason. — if they add a cb or two in the draft, I wonder if they wouldn’t consider using bush as a safety full time? GoPack!

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    • Ed Schoenfeld says:

      I think they tried Bush at safety in 2009 or so. Fundamentally, you don’t want him playing on the defense unless he is the 7th DB on the field. That’s why only the Packers would pay him — he has value as an experienced backup in this system and as a core special teams player. But they would probably rather use their 4th safety slot to develop a younger player.

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    • Zack says:

      Woodson was the worst tackler of the bunch… unfortunately I wouldn’t expect much more from him than what you saw this year. I think it’s an intentional effort to avoid big hits to preserve his health. better to miss a tackle than get hurt and end his career. the reason I think this is because he was a GREAT tackler earlier in his career if you remember. It’s only after he got hurt in the superbowl in 2010-2011 season that his tackling regressed in the 2011-2012 and it’s seems to me it’s on purpose. Expect it to only get worse next year. He’s just not a complete player anymore, he can’t afford to be.

      Shields is just an undersized guy and I would hope to see improvement but tackling won’t ever be his strong suit. He’ll either make or break his career on being a cover corner not a good tackler.

      Tramon is the guy I really hope steps up his tackling next year. He’ll probably improve the most but the other guys I just don’t see much improvement happenning next year.

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  5. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    Good article Michael.

    Safeties are kind of linked to corners in the Packers’ system. I think the lack of an offseason affected Burnett and Peprah as much as it did Shields and Williams.

    So I think its reasonable to expect a substantial improvement in the secondary this season, even if Collins can’t come back.

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    • Zack says:

      You could say the same thing about every secondary in the league… yeah all of them will perform better with a full off season. A full off season alone will not get us where we need to be. The only way we’ll see a substantial improvement in the secondary is by getting some better pass rushers… flat out no question about it. if we had a full training camp and we had as lame of a pass rush as we did this off season there would be somewhere between zero to marginal improvement in our secondary.

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      • Joe says:

        Agree; nuff SAID!!!

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      • Agreed. Many times throughout the season the defensive backs were placed on islands and forced to cover longer than they should. Getting some sort of pass rush will definitely improve the play in the secondary.

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  6. BubbaOne says:

    Michael, you wrote…
    …and a newfound ability to get to the corner back,…
    You meant to write QB, not CB.

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  7. Ron LC says:

    After the second round, CB’s are pretty much a crap shoot. Low rounder or UDFA seems likely for any changes this year. Hope the tackling dummies start getting some work ASAP.

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  8. BubbaOne says:

    Since Bush has trouble tracking the ball I still wonder why he wouldn’t be a better SS. His blitz skills could still be utilized and he’s physical vs the run.

    Joe Whitt said during the season House can be as good as he wants to be. That’s pretty high praise coming from a well respected coach.

    One FA that intrigues me is CB/ST Corey Graham. The 26 yr old is a pro bowl ST’er and when matched w/ Bush would make the coverage unit one of the best in the league.
    When he filled in last season at CB last year for 3 games he had an INT in each game.
    I’m not sure he can play man in Capers system but if he can and is willing to sign for Bush type #’s this may be a perfect TT signing.
    UPDATE: I went to check something and saw he’s signing w/ the Ravens.

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  9. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    “Joe Whitt said during the season House can be as good as he wants to be. That’s pretty high praise coming from a well respected coach.”

    Bubba, you could also look at that as a backhanded compliment, basically saying House hasn’t been that motivated…

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    • Mojo says:

      And Whitt also said this about Shields; ”Write this down. Sam is going to be one of the top corners in this league in two years.” Well Joe he’s got one more year because Shields couldn’t have sucked much more than he did this past season.

      I’m starting to not give a whit(t) to whatever Joe says anymore. I’ll believe it when I see it regarding House.

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    • BubbaOne says:

      Al, could be but I viewed it more as “Davon, you could be great, don’t waste it. Put in the time and effort and you’ll be fine”.

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  10. Ron LC says:

    Center is signed – Jeff Saturday signed as GB Packer. FA #1 give the Packers a stop gap in the Oline and more time to build the Oline furhter.

    Big sigh of relief! Thanks TT.

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  11. Zack says:

    Ron that’s great news! What kind of contract did we get with him? Thats a huge relief!

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  12. Oppy says:

    Prediction:

    Jarret Bush is going to be more involved on defense this year than he has previously.

    I also predict that, shockingly, you will actually be happy about the results.

    Dom is going to be getting pressured by MM to create pressure on the QB. Capers will look for anyone to do it. Jarret Bush will end up with a role as a disruptive force for the pass and run defense in specific situations.

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    • Mojo says:

      Right Oppy. I can see Bush, at times, closer to the line doing much of what CWood has done over the years.

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    • Gary says:

      Why is Bush listed as a cornerback that’s the one position he can’t play

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  13. Lou says:

    QB, Left Tackle, and a consistent pass rusher[s] (DE or LB) are the highest paid positions in the NFL and rightfully so. A consistent pass rush will mean an immediate upgrade in the units pass defense capabilities and open up Caper’s play book. Hopefully Pickett has enough left for a solid year and Raji reverts to 2010 form along with a new ROLB that can hold the point (not Walden) to stop the run game as consistently. When we had the consistent rush (Cullen Jenkins – Frank Zombo) in 2010 even Peprah looked like a legit starter at safety. Shields must tackle or House must be given an opportunity early. Burnett has a ton of talent and if healthy will continue to grow.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      good points, but you leave ut one major issue – Nick Collins. If Collins can’t return, Burnett becomes the permanent free safety, leaving a huge hole at SS. My vote is for Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame.

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  14. Smelker says:

    I see Ted drafting young depth at all levels of the Defense this year after the defense was pretty much ignored in last year’s draft. Probaly a high pick at all three levels and a also a low pick at all three levels. Guys like Shields, Zombo, Wilson etc. need to be pushed in order to play better this year.

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