29

July

5 Questions About Charles Woodson at Safety (and maybe a few answers)

By now you’ve probably all heard that the Packers plan to have Charles Woodson line up at safety this season.

To try and figure out exactly what that means for Woodson, the defense and the Packers, I asked myself five questions. I even tried to answer a few of them. Unfortunately, we won’t know if any of those answers are correct until the season is underway.

Q: How often will Woodson line up as a safety?

A: So far it looks like it will mainly be in the Packers’ base 3-4 formation, which they played about 25 percent of the time last season. I think the days of Woodson lining up one-on-one on the outside against a WR are over, but it is something we’ll have to watch as camp progresses. The development of M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian will probably factor in as well. If they don’t step up, I suppose we could see Woodson at safety in some sub-packages as well.

Q: Does Woodson have the mindset to play safety?

A: He takes a lot of risks. If Woodson sees a window to make an interception, even if it’s a tiny window that’s closing quickly, he’s going for it. That mindset has worked for Woodson the Cornerback…most of the time. It’s fine to let a corner with Woodson’s talent and instincts take risks because there’s usually a safety behind him in case the decision backfires. But now Woodson is the safety. If one of his risks backfires, the only thing behind him is a clear path to the end zone.

Q: How much of an adjustment is playing safety for Woodson?

A: It’s not like Woodson has been a straight-up cover-cornerback the last few seasons. Dom Capers moves him around, usually sticking him in the slot or trying to get him around the ball so his playmaking ability takes over. We’ll have to wait and see if the 35-year-old’s role will be much different at safety. I don’t think it will be a major change, but I also think it’s a more difficult move than casual fans might think.

Q: What does this move say about the Packers CB depth?

A: This move would not have been made if the Packers felt they were lacking at CB. The Packers have had serious problems in pass coverage for two of Dom Capers’ three seasons as defensive coordinator. While Woodson is no longer a shutdown cover guy, he still makes a ton of plays. The last thing you want to do with a playmaker on a sketchy defense is mess with his position if there isn’t adequate talent to fill in behind him.

Q: Is moving Woodson to safety a good idea?

A: I’ve always been skeptical. I think Woodson takes too many risks to be the last line of defense. But the Packers probably won’t use Woodson as a last-line-of-defense type of safety. My guess he’ll still do a lot of things he did in the slot, but do them from a different position every now and then. It’s still early, ask me this question again in October.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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5 Responses to “5 Questions About Charles Woodson at Safety (and maybe a few answers)”

  1. Oppy says:

    Woodson should be playing the SS position as an in-the-box, run support safety. That would be ideal for him.

    MM talked about Woodson being a playmaker, and keeping him close to the ball means more opportunities to make big time plays.

    That suggests to me they will try to create opportunities for WOod to line up in the box or on the LOS as much as possible, to put him in position to play the run, put him on the slot WR/SE, and give him the shortest, most direct path to the QB should they want to use him to pressure.

    With more athleticism/speed on the edges and Burnett’s (or maybe McMillian’s) physical talents to play the deep FS, it would mean they could basically still use Woodson as they always have (disruptor, run support, rover) without risking him getting exposed in coverage as much, and improving the speed on the field at DB.

    If they ask him to play deep zones and over-the-top of man coverage, I’m not sure I’m comfortable. Sure, he’d make plays and picks, but I agree with Adam, I think we’ll see one to many failed gambles that result in TDs given up than I’d be comfortable with.

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    • PackersRS says:

      I agree completely. As Ron said, it’s just the first week of practice.

      But if I had to guess this will hold true, he’s gonna play SS in base, and he’ll either cover man a TE, FB or RB, or he’ll play zone close to the LOS, with a lot of cover 1 and cover 3. Of course he’s going to play some deep zones, but more often than not he’ll be close to the LOS.

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  2. Dan says:

    I like this move. I also like hearing good things about Heyward so far in camp. I can’t help but to think this D will play much better this year

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    • Oppy says:

      Yes, hearing that Hayward has been practicing extremely well is really exciting- it seems rare that the Packers pick a CB who performs well in their first camp (exception being Shields), but even Sam Shields really didn’t make much noise until he made some splash plays in the preseason games.

      Really excited to see ALL these young DB’s grow!

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  3. Ron LC says:

    Pre-season is for trying things out. Just becuse they do it now doesn’t mean they’ll carry it into the season. That’s why I really like to see how things develop before throwing in my bet. After last year, I’m sure Capers has received the message loud and clear. He MUST fix the D. And I am confident he will. Try everything now and see what develops.

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