The Irreplaceable Charles Woodson

25 responses

  1. ZeroTolerance
    June 7, 2012

    Excellent insight and summary.

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    • Chad Toporski
      Chad Toporski
      June 7, 2012

      Thanks, ZT.

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  2. Ed Schoenfeld
    June 7, 2012

    Thanks for a nice article on Woodson and his role for the Packers.

    I think one of the issues with moving Woodson to safety is exactly what becomes of his unique ‘slot corner’ position. Many of the things he does in that role are contained in the idea of an ‘in the box’ safety, yet much of the Packers defensive scheme presently relies on having two “cover” safeties behind Woodson in the slot.

    I have some confidence that they will get two decent cover corners out of Shields, Hayward, and House. I have less confidence that the current candidates at safely (Peprah, McMillian, MD Jennings) will step into a cover safety role. (From reports on OTAs, Jennings may have the best shot at it).

    Without the right players at the other positions on the field, counting Woodson as one of the safeties could dramatically reduce the creative ways Capers can use the secondary, and turn the Packers defense much more vanilla. I believe the need to play vanilla after Collins was injured was a major contributor to the defensive fiasco last season (I have it tied with the lack of a second effective pass rusher.)

    So this will be a very interesting training camp to watch, as they work out whether Woodson needs to move to safety to extend his career and if so, what happens with the deign of the defense as a result of that move.

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    • PackersRS
      June 7, 2012

      Good point about the vanilla defense. Would add that Shields’ inability to play press and Tramon Williams’ bum shoulder also played a big part in it.

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    • Chad Toporski
      Chad Toporski
      June 7, 2012

      Yeah, I’m not so sure why people are so caught up on Woodson moving to safety. As you said, his role is so unique to the offense that to lose it would change a lot.

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    • Oppy
      June 7, 2012

      You are exactly right about the “vanilla” play of the defense… You can look back through Dom’s history with Green Bay, and if we have a weakness at safety due to injury or just all around poor play, Dom’s defensive fronts are excruciatingly conservative.

      With the type of sell-out gambling that Woodson commits to at the drop of a hat, you better have two attentive, assignment sure safeties over the top.

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  3. Bubbaloo
    June 7, 2012

    Great article Chad, one of the best I’ve seen in a while. Although I (we) know it is inevitable, the thought of playing without Woodson makes me cringe. In some ways he has become the Donald Driver of the defense, not quite what he once was, but damn, what’ll we do…………….

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    • cow42
      June 7, 2012

      except that if they didn’t have driver, the offense wouldn’t even notice.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

      • Chad Toporski
        Chad Toporski
        June 7, 2012

        Ouch… the truth hurts?

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    • Chad Toporski
      Chad Toporski
      June 7, 2012

      Thanks, Bubbaloo.

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  4. marpag
    June 7, 2012

    I’ll get blasted for this, but based on last year’s play, Woodson was overrated. I’ll give him a B+, but are B+ players really irreplaceable?

    Granted, he had a lot of turnover plays (9), and that’s huge. But he gambled for those, and that really cost the defense on a number of occasions. Without a single starting-caliber safety on the field, you just can’t gamble like that.

    Woodson missed 18 tackles, more than anyone else on the team. (That’s 3 more missed tackles than AJ Hawk, for those of you in the AJH Fan Club). He also gave up more touchdowns (5) than anyone else. And he wasn’t nearly as dynamic blitzing from the edge as he was the year before.

    You can say that Woodson is a unique athlete and therefore “irreplaceable”. OK. But just being different than everyone else isn’t really what I’m looking for. I’ll take a truly first rate cover guy any day over some sort of corner/safety/linebacker/something-or-other that even I don’t really know where to play. Woodson may be some sort of freakish hybrid, sure. But who’s gonna cover Calvin Johnson? I no longer see Woodson as that guy.

    Don’t misunderstand me… Woodson, even at 36 (?) is still pretty darn good. Maybe the Packers won’t find someone just like him, but they can – and must – find someone who can be a first rate perimeter cover guy against today’s passing offenses.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

    • Chad Toporski
      Chad Toporski
      June 7, 2012

      I wouldn’t be so quick to write off Woodson’s career and base your opinion on last season, especially with so many things going wrong on the defense. None of these guys play in a vacuum, meaning the 11 guys on defense all depend on each other to get the job done.

      You also can’t just throw a couple stats out and call it a day, because anyone could probably find a good stat for every bad stat. According to PFF, “In the slot last season, [Woodson] allowed a QB rating of just 40.3 on the throws he was targeted on, and picked-off four passes from his 37 targets.”

      https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2012/06/01/defensive-prototypes-defensive-backfield/

      As for covering Calvin Johnson, I personally think Tramon Williams is more than capable. His shoulder injury last season hindered his play, but he is more than capable of handling a team’s top receiver.

      And not to sound crass, but just because you don’t know where to play Woodson doesn’t mean a guy like Dom Capers doesn’t. After all, I’m sure he has his job for a reason.

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      • marpag
        June 7, 2012

        I’m not sure where I said that I was “writing off Woodson’s career.” Was it in there somewhere? Was it the B+ thing?

        My apologies for “just throwing out a couple of stats.” Thanks for calling me out on that… and then backing up your point by throwing out a couple of stats.

        Please. I’m aware that there are positive stats, too. Perhaps you noticed that I mentioned the number of turnover plays Woodson produced, or the fact that I rated him as very good. I also noticed that he was credited with 18 missed tackles and five touchdowns allowed, which no one can really explain away as “just stats” that the poster obviously hasn’t thought through carefully enough.

        As for covering Calvin Johnson, the dude had 244 yards (!) and a touchdown in the week 17 game against Green Bay. This falls short of my expectations. If you think Tramon can cover him, ask him if he can start right away.

        And not to sound crass, but yes, I know Dom Capers has his job for a reason. I also know that he’s been fired from several of his jobs… also, I’m told, for reasons.

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      • Chad Toporski
        Chad Toporski
        June 7, 2012

        “…based on last year’s play, Woodson was overrated.”

        And then you continued to talk about what he did last season. Sorry if I mistook that for you focusing on last season rather than him as an actual player.

        As for the stats, I threw those out to prove my point, that stats aren’t everything.

        I just don’t think you see the whole picture here. I’m not sure why, but you don’t accept that Woodson has a specialized role that is important to the success of this defense. If you would rather have a specialized player who can only cover people, then good for you. But I think Woodson has been pretty damn effective at what he does, and the defense would not and will not be the same without him.

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      • marpag
        June 7, 2012

        And I don’t deny your right to hold that opinion. I’ll admit that an extremely versatile guy like Woodson can cause problems for the opponent. But I’d stand by my statement that corners are on the field first and foremost to keep wide receivers from catching the ball. If they can blitz or really stack up the run, that’s some nice gravy. But the Packers gave up the most passing yards in their history last year. I’d like to see someone who can cover. And I think Woodson is definitely slipping in that area.

        Also, YES, I AM basing my comments on last year. I intended to do that all along. (I thought this was obvious when I said “based on last year’s play” right at the beginning of my post). My point was – as I said – that I don’t believe Woodson’s play last year was as good as his reputation. I’m not commenting on his entire career, nor am I saying he can’t do better next year. I’m commenting on last year. I can do that if I want to.

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      • Chad Toporski
        Chad Toporski
        June 7, 2012

        I apologize for the miscommunication, then. Thank you for clearing up your intentions with your original post. I understand where you are coming from now.

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      • PackersRS
        June 8, 2012

        You can do and think what you want, but you’re completely disregarding the entire philosophy of the 2-4-5 employed by Capers, much like you’re completely disregarding Woodson’s role as a player when citing those stats and his play.

        A 202 pound CB is bound to miss more tackles than usual, if his role is to tackle RBs constantly. Very different than tackling WRs.

        This “Woodson didn’t cover well” fallacy falls to the ground in lieu of the 40.3 QB rating computed when he was thrown at, with an astonishing 10.81% INT rate.

        Then you proceed to talk about covering Calvin Johnson (which has nothing to do with how well Woodson played, since there were few instances where he was assigned to Johnson), but you omit the first game, played with all starters, where he caught 4 passes for 49 yards and a garbage time TD.

        To me, your reasoning for why Woodson didn’t play to his reputation last year is flawed to begin with, but not only that, your bring up empty stats that don’t prove anything at all, and disregard those that go against your argument.

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      • marpag
        June 8, 2012

        Seriously?? If making tackles and preventing touchdowns aren’t the very heart and soul of a defender’s job, then what would you say the job of a defender is? I said that Woodson led the entire team in missed tackles and touchdowns allowed. Do you really mean to say that these are “empty stats that don’t prove anything at all?”

        And then, after declaring the meaninglessness of tackling well and preventing touchdowns, you want to prove Woodson’s worth by…. a computerized QB rating?? Please forgive me if I break out laughing.

        As for covering Calvin Johnson, I never said Woodson was the one covering him. Far from it; that would be the next thing to suicide. Woodson wasn’t assigned to Johnson because the coaches know that he can’t run with Johnson. If Woodson were our best cover option, he would be on Johnson like glue every play. As it is, however, he lines up in the slot… because that’s where you put corners who can’t run anymore.

        And you’re right, I did shamefully omit the stats from CJ’s first game against GB last year. Let’s correct that oversight: Over the past four years, CJ has averaged 94.9 yards per game and 1.3 TDs per game against GB. Apparently, Woodson is not the only Packer who can’t cover. I would like it if the Packers could correct that.

        I know we run the mighty Dom Capers 2-4-5 defense and all, the intricacies of which make for some mighty fine lectures on the internet, but if the 2-4-5 can’t tackle the opponent and keep him out of the end zone, then why should I give a damn about it?

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      • Oppy
        June 7, 2012

        Chad, I like the fact you have pointed out that Woodson has to be placed in a special category.

        When people claim he plays the CB position at an elite level, I will ardently disagree. He’s still a playmaker, but he’s no longer great at playing CB. His coverage skills have diminished. He is, however, crafty and physical, and an asset to the defense to be certain.

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      • Steve Cheez
        June 7, 2012

        Go ahead and sound crass, Chad!

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  5. PackEyedOptimist
    June 7, 2012

    Personally, and hey, I’m just a fan, the thing that I was worried about relating to Woodson last year, was that he wasn’t appearing to handle blockers and tackle as well. Trying to cover up for the loss of Jenkins and Collins and Williams was going to affect his coverages, but up until last year, Charles was like Reggie and Kampmann–if you ran at him, he tackled you. Always. That wasn’t the case a bunch of times last year. I was hoping he had an injury we didn’t know about.

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    • marpag
      June 7, 2012

      You might be just a fan, but you are also correct. 18 missed tackles is an awful lot.

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  6. homerunsimpson
    June 8, 2012

    i dont think woodson’s role needs to be filled. I think that the job of the defensive coordinator is to use his player’s talents as efficiently as possible. Thats where Woodson’s role comes from. It doesnt mean that capers wants to run a particular scheme and found the perfect guy for it. I dont think woodson is irreplaceable. We just need talented players, and as Woodson’s ability to play the game declines, a better player will take his spot. The scheme will change to fit the new players.

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    • Chad Toporski
      Chad Toporski
      June 8, 2012

      I think we’ve essentially drawn the same conclusion. While Woodson’s specific role and what he brings to the defense is irreplaceable, you’re right that Dom Capers will alter his scheme to fill in the holes Woodson leaves behind.

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