Packers Secondary: Questions and Answers About Woodson’s Return
It appears that Charles Woodson is close to returning to the Packers. That’s great news.
So, what are the Packers going to do with him?
As soon as Clay Matthews got hurt, you saw an immediate decline in the pass rush. There hasn’t been a major dropoff in pass coverage with Woodson injured. In fact, we’ve seen a few young players step up and emerge with Woodson out.
Getting Woodson back will be helpful, but it also will raise some questions about how the secondary will look. Here are a few of those questions:
- Will Casey Hayward’s playing time get cut? It’s hard to put this kid on the bench. He covers well in the slot and makes plays on the ball when he’s in the area. Watching Woodson trying to cover a good slot receiver these days is not very fun. Woodson might be a better tackler than Hayward, but not by much.
- Will Davon House’s playing time get cut? House plays with an attitude. He’s far from perfect, but he attacks whoever he’s trying to cover on the outside. Plus he’s big. Woodson can’t play on the outside any more so I don’t see him cutting into House’s opportunities. Maybe if Woodson plays inside, Hayward would get kicked to the outside, but that doesn’t seem realistic, either.
- What about Sam Shields? Oh yeah, Shields. Remember him? He’s close to returning, too. He might cut into House’s playing time some, but I don’t think Shields’ return will impact Woodson much.
- Couldn’t you just put Woodson back at safety? Makes sense to me. Have Jerron McMillian and/or M.D. Jennings done enough to make us forget about Woodson? I don’t think so. There has been some dropoff in toughness against the run with Woodson out. I think McMillian has the potential to be a sound tackling safety, but he’s not quite there yet. While Woodson doesn’t make any running backs shake in their boots, he’ll put his nose in there and try to take anyone down. Don’t forget about his knack for forcing fumbles, too.
- How about getting all the young CBs on the field with Woodson? This works if you make Woodson the dime back. He can roam around on passing downs, blitz every now and then, cover the tight end or snipe errant passes as the center-fielder.
- Would Woodson be fine with just being the dime back? Who knows. If he can’t hack it any more in every-down situations, he might not have a choice.
- Enough with the questions, tell me what option is best and how this is all going to play out. I have no idea. If I had to guess, I’d guess that we’ll see Woodson in some combination of safety and dime back. The main thing I’m hoping for is Woodson getting some of his blitzing mojo back. I’m getting tired of seeing defensive backs crash into the middle of the line and get swallowed up.
It’s good to have options on the back end heading down the stretch. I’m sure Woodson will get every opportunity to establish himself again and pick up right where he left off. If he doesn’t hold up, McMillian, Jennings, Hayward and Shields are young, hungry and eager to continue proving they belong.
The main thing to worry about is an elephant-in-the-room situation with Woodson returning, not being effective, then getting angry when the younger guys get his playing time. I’m confident Mike McCarthy would know how to handle this situation and I’m mostly confident that Woodson would be good about it.
Let’s hope that never happens and Woodson comes back refreshed and re-energized.——————