Category Archives: Nick Collins

4

September

The Cast and Characters of the 2012 Packers Secondary

Packers safety M.D. Jennings

Packers S M.D. Jennings is one of the new characters in the Packers secondary.

We’ve all sat through a terrible movie before. I’m not talking about a movie where it’s so bad, it’s good. I’m talking about a movie that is just plain bad, even painful.

Watching the Green Bay Packers allow almost 5,000 passing yards last season was like watching a bad movie, for a whopping 17 weeks.

If a director makes a terrible movies, he’ll probably try and make some serious changes so his next movie isn’t as bad. Maybe he’ll bring on actors with more experience or a production staff that has a several good movies under their resume.

Not if the director is Ted Thompson.

The Packers GM looked at his flop of a defense and said, “I’m going to get some guys that have even less experience and are more unproven than they players we had last season.”

Nowhere is that more evident than in the secondary.

Who are these guys?

The Packers first regular season game is only a few days away, but we have little idea what the secondary will look like. We know Tramon Williams will be at corner and Charles Woodson will be at safety in base and slot corner in sub packages. We also know Morgan Burnett will be at safety.

But that’s about all we know. We don’t know who the No. 2 corner will be in base and we have little clue what the sub packages will look like.

The defensive front features high-profile draft picks like Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy to try and save the day. The defensive backfield features a rookie safety from Maine, unproven cornerbacks and, gulp, Jarrett Bush.

In my opinion, who starts in the secondary doesn’t really matter. A lot of who we see on the field on Sunday will depend on matchups.

Nonetheless, it’s nice to know more about the cast and characters that are trying to rescue the Packers secondary. We know about the stars — Woodson, Williams and Burnett have been around for a while.

What about the supporting cast? How might they fit? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Here’s a quick primer on the Packers who will be battling for time in the defensive backfield, both on Sunday and throughout the season.

21

August

Fixing the Packers Defense up the Middle

Charles Woodson

Will Charles Woodson at safety improve the Packers defense up the middle?

Doesn’t it seem like the middle of the field is 20 yards wider whenever the Packers defense is out there?

Packers defenders always seem a step behind covering a receiver down the middle and off-balance when trying to make an open-field tackle between the hash marks. If teels like there’s too much space for them to cover.

Green Bay struggled to cover the middle of the field last season, even before Nick Collins got hurt. So far this preseason, it doesn’t look like much has improved.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s early, but man, I don’t think I can handle another season of Packers’ corners giving receivers a 10-yard cushion, then looking helpless as opposing teams pick apart the middle.

I realize the middle of the field is difficult to defend for all teams, not just the Packers. I also realize that every offense tries to attack the middle, especially in this day and age of rules that favor offense, tight ends that can’t be covered and quarterbacks that are as accurate in real life as they are in the Madden football video game.

If the Packers want to shore up how they defend the middle of the field, here’s what needs to happen:

  • Pass rush. Specifically, get pressure up the middle. QB pressure cures a lot of problems, but getting pressure up the middle is one of the few things that seems to rattle today’s quarterbacks. Teams need to find ways to prevent quarterbacks from stepping into their throws and staying in rhythm. A pass rush from the outside definitely helps, but it doesn’t take much for an athletic QB to make one move, slip away, and make plays outside the pocket. A pass rush up the middle helps keep the QB contained. Losing Desmond Bishop hurt the Packers pass rush up the middle, but hopefully Jerel Worthy can generate some pressure. Otherwise, it will be up to Dom Capers to scheme something.
  • Charles Woodson. We’ll see how the Woodson at safety experiment plays out. Either way the Packers need him down the middle. Woodson isn’t scared to stick his nose in there and be physical, and with Bishop out, I’m not sure who else can cover a good tight end. Let’s not forget about tackling, either. Watching the Packers try to tackle in the open field resembles a clown show. Woodson’s tackling is nothing to laugh at, though, and it needs to stay that way.
1

August

Morgan Burnett Emerging as Key Figure in Packers’ Secondary

Green Bay Packers Safety Morgan Burnett

Safety Morgan Burnett Taking Charge

After the Green Bay Packers cut ties with Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, the importance of Morgan Burnett undoubtedly grew larger.On top of being the Packers’ key communicator on the back end of the defense, he was a turnover machine, constantly hovering deep in the middle of the defense waiting for his opportunity to jump routes or lay the lumber to an unsuspecting wide receiver.

And if the first week of training camp is any indication–Burnett appears capable of picking up right where Collins left off.

Playing alongside Collins, Burnett’s role often required him to play closer to the line of scrimmage–something that the 6’1″ 209-pound safety is certainly capable of doing but didn’t seem like a natural fit for his long build and rangy skill set.

Burnett missed the final 12 games games of his rookie season, and Collins missed the final 14 last year–as a result, the highly athletic and similarly skilled duo only started six games together. Now with Collins having been released by the team, Burnett will step in as the Packers’ “center fielder.”

On three consecutive plays at Tuesday morning’s practice at Ray Nitschke field, Burnett was the center of attention. First, he sprinted from the deep middle of the field to the sideline and broke up a beautiful Aaron Rodgers bomb to Jordy Nelson, then on the next play, jarred the ball loose from Jermichael Finley across the middle, and followed that up by intercepting Rodgers after Donald Driver lost his footing while running a route.

Tuesday’s practice was certainly both encouraging and impressive for everyone in Packer Country, but it was nothing new for Burnett, who arrived to camp in great shape and appears headed for a breakout season.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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26

July

Packers Pre-Training Camp Grades: Defense

Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams will need to lead the defense back from a miserable 2011.

As promised, here are our pre-training camp grades for the Packers defense:

Defensive Line: D
Grading the defensive line depends on what type of grader you are. If you give points for potential, a ‘D’ seems too low. If potential ranks far below production, then a ‘D’ seems fair. Seeing names like Raji and Pickett makes you think this line should be damn good. But Raji was bad last season and Pickett is another year older. Sure, Raji has the potential to be great like he was at the end of 2010, but he had that same potential in 2011 and never reached it. Jerel Worthy is another guy that could make this group potentially better, but right now, I need to see actual improvement on the line before upping my grade.

Link: Listen to CheeseheadTV’s Brian Carriveau discuss the defensive line in this podcast.

Linebackers: B+
Clay Matthews is one of the best all-around players in the league and Desmond Bishop brings much-needed energy, attitude and a knack for making impact plays.  Matthews and Bishop carried the load at LB last season and need some help in 2012. Nick Perry could bring some much-needed relief. Ditto for D.J. Smith if A.J. Hawk continues to be a dud.  Mix in intriguing rookies like Dezman Moses and Terrell Manning and I like what I see at LB.

Link: Here’s what the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Rob Demovsky had to say about the linebackers before April’s draft.

Cornerbacks: C
This is the toughest position group to rank by far. What do we make of Tramon Williams’ miserable 2011 season? Is Sam Shields really just a guy after showing so much promise in 2010? Will age finally catch up with Charles Woodson? How much do we blame the non-existent pass rush for the cornerback’s decline? Based on last season’s historically bad pass defense, a ‘C’ seems a little generous. But I have a hard time believing that all three main CBs went from good/great in 2010 to terrible in the span of one season.

Link: Charles Woodson is old, but if you don’t understand just how important he is to the Packers defense, read this post from Jason Wilde at ESPNWisconsin.

25

July

Safety Charlie Peprah Released By The Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers released safety Charlie Peprah on Wednesday

In the first stunning move of training camp in 2012, the Green Bay Packers have released safety Charlie Peprah according to Jason Wilde of ESPN 540.

Peprah, who was the incumbent starter from 2011, reportedly had offseason arthroscopic surgery on his knee and didn’t participate in the offseason program. With the players just recently completing their physicals,  some speculation is surely going to be that Peprah failed his physical but no official word from the team has been given as of yet.

With Peprah gone, that leaves MD Jennings and Jerron McMillian to battle it out for the other safety spot should Charles Woodson remain in the cornerback decision.   Morgan Burnett is expected to be the other starting safety entering the preseason.

With Nick Collins out with a neck injury, Peprah ranked second on the team last season in interceptions and was first in interception return yardage.  However, thanks to his regression from 2010 when he played a key role in the Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV,  Peprah’s starting spot was in danger entering training camp this summer.

Peprah, however, will not even get the chance to compete to keep his own job.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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3

July

Packers Rookie Jerron McMillian: Will Ted Thompson Strike Gold Again?

Jerron McMillian

Can Jerron McMillian fill the shoes of Nick Collins?

It was a formula that paid dividends for the Green Bay Packers the last time around so GM Ted Thompson figured it was worth trying again.

In his first draft as head of the Packers football operations in 2005, Thompson selected a player from a small school who in time had a big impact on the organization.   In the second round of the 2005 draft, Thompson selected safety Nick Collins from small Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.  At the time, it was viewed as a reach taking a player from such a small school so early in the draft.  Many wondered what the then-rookie general manager was doing.

The “reach” paid off big time as Collins became the best safety the Packers have had since the retirement of Leroy Butler (no offense to Darren Sharper).  Collins will forever immortalized in Packers lore for his highlight reel pick-six of Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLV and the celebration following that was the cover image for the Green Bay Press Gazette following the Packers’ victory.

Fast forward to this past spring.  Thompson again found himself in need of safety, ironically because Collins suffered a likely career-ending neck injury in Week 2 last season.  Thompson found a diamond In the rough in Collins, so Thompson may have thought he could do it again.

Enter Jerron McMillian, the Packers’ fourth round pick in the 2012 draft.  Like Collins, McMillian hails from a small college—Maine.  Perhaps a state university isn’t necessarily “small” but since it’s Maine I doubt many people will consider his university a powerhouse.

The tale of the tape on McMillian from video and the scouting combine is that he’s a very physical player, a shutdown safety if there ever was one.  He plays the run well, but struggles with the pass.  McMillian rarely misses a tackle (music to Packer fans’ ears after the debacle of the 2011 unit) and is an effective blitzer.

Sound familiar?  While he may not be Pro Bowl-ready right out of the gate for the Packers, McMillian’s speed and physical play will fit in well on a Dom Capers-coached unit that prides itself on being aggressive and forcing turnovers.  He may not beat out Charlie Peprah or M.D. Jennings in training camp but Capers and his staff can take McMillian’s current skillset and mold him into a decent safety that can push Peprah or Jennings should either of them struggle.

2

July

Packers Starters Most Likely to Lose Their Spots

Most of the offseason chatter about Packers starters getting benched has centered on A.J. Hawk being replaced by D.J. Smith. That very well might happen, but what about other starters that could find themselves on the bench once the season starts?

Erik Walden
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Walden totaled just three sacks, 14 QB hits and 22 QB hurries in 15 starts. From week 12 through the playoff loss, Walden had zero sacks, four hits and six hurries (he also got arrested). His (-20.5) overall rating by PFF was the worst among 3-4 OLBs by almost 10 points.

Packers fans don’t need fancy stats and analytics to know that Walden was bad. If he was simply average, and provided at least a little pressure on the QB down the stretch, who knows how last season might have ended? Rookie Nick Perry likely will take over here.

Jarius Wynn/C.J. Wilson
These two combined to start six games, so it’s a stretch to call them starters. Howard Green also started five times, so we’ll consider Wynn/Wilson/Green a sort of three-headed monster that started most games somewhere on the defensive line. With Green gone, there’s only two heads of the monster left, and I’m not sure that either head will start this season.

Wilson seems like a good athlete, which gives me some hope that he could eventually turn into a serviceable player. A permanent starter? The jury is out.

The Packers need more defensive lineman that cause chaos. It’s a common misconception that the only role of a 3-4 defensive lineman is to “occupy blockers.” That’s true to a point, but the lineman needs to do something that actually occupies the blocker. Simply being a large body with a pulse that walks upright isn’t enough.

Jerel Worthy caused chaos at Michigan St. He occupied blockers, and he also beat the hell out of the blockers he occupied. If he can do that in the NFL, he’ll be starting over Wilson and Wynn in no time.

Marshall Newhouse
Thanks to Chad Clifton’s injury, Newhouse started 13 games at left tackle. He’s got the inside track to begin as the starter this season unless Derek Sherrod recovers from his leg injury and plays out of his mind in training camp. I don’t see Newhouse losing his spot.