11

February

Morgan Burnett: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers safety Morgan Burnett

Morgan Burnett

1) Introduction: Drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft, Burnett won himself the starting safety job alongside Nick Collins to begin his rookie season. Just four weeks in, however, Burnett blew out his ACL and missed the rest of the year, which included the Packers run to the Super Bowl. The knee was back to full strength in time for the start of Packers’ training camp.

2) Profile:

Morgan Burnett

Position: S
Height: 6-1
Weight: 209 lbs.
AGE: 23

Career Stats:

 

3) Expectations coming into the season: There were a good number of talking heads that thought Burnett could be the Packers breakout defender in 2011. A healthy knee, plus the ball skills Burnett showed both at Georgia Tech and during the four games of his rookie season, gave him a real chance. And despite the Packers giving backup safety Charlie Peprah a two-year deal after the 2010 season, most fully expected Burnett to resume his starting role next to Collins in 2011.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: While the Packers were still giving up boatloads of yards through the first three weeks, Burnett was playing at a high level. He led the team in tackles with 14 against the Saints, intercepted a pass with a sack against the Panthers then picked off Jay Cutler twice in Chicago. In the lead up to Week 4 against the Rams, Burnett broke his hand and was forced to wear a club for several straight weeks. From that point on, the highlights were few and far between. The second-year safety didn’t force another turnover during the final 13 weeks. For a player that wasn’t able to make many plays near the line of scrimmage, that was significant.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Through three weeks, Burnett was making a push towards the Pro Bowl. But after the broken hand, he was just another part in a secondary that gave up more passing yards than any in NFL history. It’s hard to judge what kind of overall impact losing Nick Collins had on Burnett, as the Packers gave up back-to-back 400 yard-games with the pair healthy. But Collins’ injury did force Burnett to play the deep half almost exclusively, and that kept him from making plays near the line of scrimmage like he’s probably best at. Playing alongside Charlie Peprah did Burnett no favors, either. He needs to take a big jump next season, especially if Collins is forced to retire.

11

February

Charlie Peprah: 2011 Green Bay Packers Player Evaluation and Report Card

Packers Safety Charlie Peprah

Charlie Peprah

1) Introduction: Peprah’s journey-man career finally found some footing during his second stint with the Packers. After rookie Morgan Burnett was lost for the year in Week 4 of the 2010 season, Peprah stepped in and started 11 of the final 12 regular season games and each of the Packers’ four postseason wins. A hard-working, tough backup, Peprah was re-signed on a two-year, $2.5 million deal after the season.

2) Profile:

Charlie Yaw Peprah

Position: S
Height: 5-11
Weight: 203 lbs.
AGE: 28

Career Stats:

 

3) Expectations coming into the season: Despite filling in admirably during the Packers’ Super Bowl run, the consensus was that Peprah would fall back into a backup role in 2011. Burnett’s knee was healthy and Nick Collins’ name was written in permanent marker atop the Packers’ depth chart.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: For all his gaffes during the 2011 season, Peprah also made a fair number of big plays. Peprah’s five interceptions ranked him second on the team to Charles Woodson. The two most important turnovers came in San Diego, where Peprah returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half then sealed the win by picking off Philip Rivers late in the fourth quarter. However, there were simply too many mental and physical mistakes. Peprah allowed over 500 yards receiving on just 54 targets covered, plus five touchdowns and eight plays over 20 yards.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: The interceptions, especially in San Diego, were big plays in Packers wins. But there’s no need to sugar coat it: Peprah was a liability throughout the 2011-12 season. He’s a smart player, but the athletic limitations were too much to overcome over a full season, as offensive coordinators routinely found ways to get Peprah out of place and in mismatches against receivers. The mistakes weren’t as profound in 2010 with an experienced player in Nick Collins alongside Peprah. But teaming with Morgan Burnett, who more or less was a rookie in 2011, wasn’t a good combination. Bad safety play was a reason for the Packers’ collapse defensively.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Peprah played a role in both of the Giants’ big plays in the first half. On Eli Manning’s 66-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, Peprah failed to wrap up Hakeem Nicks, instead attempting to de-cleat a receiver that is taller and outweighs Peprah. Right before the half, Peprah was unable to knock down Manning’s Hail Mary heave. A portion of the blame for both Giants’ touchdowns fell on Peprah’s shoulders.

19

January

Which Packers Defensive Players Took the Biggest Step Backward in 2011?

Sam Shields - Green Bay Packers defensive back

Shields just one of many who had down years...

Man, this blog has turned into a depressing place this week. Scroll through the titles of the last couple of posts and you’ll see words like “regression” and “loss” mixed with phrases like “it’s over” and “fart in the wind.”

It’s probably best to make sure you don’t have any sharp objects nearby while reading.

This post is no exception. After coming up big in 2010, several Packers on defense took a step backwards. Who regressed the most?

Tramon Williams
After Williams got the best of Calvin Johnson on Thanksgiving, I thought the Tramon of 2010 was back. It looked like he was healthy and ready to blanket the other team’s No. 1 receiver as the Packers headed down the home stretch.

It didn’t happen.

Instead of taking the next step and establishing himself as a legit No. 1 CB in the NFL, Williams started giving up big play after big play. In addition to struggling in coverage, Williams was a tackling liability (his tackling was especially pathetic in the Christmas game against the Bears). He capped his lackluster season by allowing seven catches in eight attempts for 125 yards in the playoff loss to the Giants.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Williams was watching him constantly line up 10 yards off the receiver he was matched against, even on plays  when the offense needed five yards or fewer for a first down. Maybe Williams’ shoulder never healed after the Saints game. Maybe he did the best he could with the Packers bad pass rush. Maybe he missed Nick Collins.

Either way, Williams regressed in 2011.

A.J. Hawk
Mike McCarthy spent a good part of his season-ending news conference talking about how bad his team’s tackling was this season. He could’ve saved everyone some time and showed film of Hawk bouncing off ball carriers or getting dragged for three extra yards after initial contact on play after play.

Hawk signed a 5-year, $34 million contract in the offseason and did very little to justify the Packers’ investment. After averaging almost seven tackles per game in 2010, Hawk only managed 5.5 in 2011. He was also a major liability in pass coverage.

18

January

2011 Packers Become “A Fart in the Wind” After Disheartening Loss to Giants

The Packers' 2011 season went up in smoke Sunday against the Giants.

It was never supposed to end like this for the 2011 Green Bay Packers.

No, Sunday’s 37-20 result wasn’t supposed to happen after the greatest regular season performance in franchise history, a 15-1 mark that can now only be topped with 16-game perfection.

It couldn’t have happened after seeing the Packers come out on the victorious side of 21 of 22 games, including a franchise record 19 in a row, that ensured they’d be hosting their first postseason game since 2007.

There was no chance it could end after watching the offense score 560 points, which was good for five touchdowns a game and finished as the second-highest single season scoring unit in NFL history.

And it was never an option after witnessing their 28-year-old quarterback, fresh off a Super Bowl MVP and perfectly positioned in the prime of his career, throw 45 touchdowns and set a new NFL record for passer rating in just 15 games.

All the stars seemed aligned for the Packers to win their second straight Super Bowl, the one definitive sign that this team would forever be remembered in the annals of NFL history and that the dynasty of 2010′s was taking shape right before our eyes.

But by the time Lambeau Field’s scoreboard hit quadruple zeros—00:00—the New York Giants, a team that snuck into the playoffs with just nine wins and had previously fallen to the Packers’ sword earlier in the season at home, confidently walked into the game’s most historic stadium and laid a Big Apple-sized beat down on just the sixth team in NFL history to finish the regular season with 15 or more wins.

There was nothing fluky about this win for the Giants, either.

The Packers scored 20 points, 15 below their season average, and you could make a convincing argument that two of those touchdown drives were allowed to continue because the eyes of Bill Leavy were seeing the game in some kind of other dimension that wasn’t readily apparent to 99 percent of other fans watching at home.

15

January

Packers vs. Giants: 5 Things to Watch in NFC Divisional Round

Peprah was burned for a TD on the Giants' first offensive series.

The Green Bay Packers (15-1, NFC No. 1) host the New York Giants (10-7, NFC No. 4) Sunday in the NFC’s Divisional Round of the 2012 playoffs.

The basics 

When: 3:30 CST, Sunday, January 15, 2012.

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI.

TV: FOX; Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the call, Pam Oliver on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; NFL Sunday Drive; Westwood One.

Series: Packers lead, 31-23-2 (Giants won last playoff meeting, 23-20 (OT) on Jan. 20, 2008 in NFC Championship Game).

Five things to watch

1. Rookie factor

Not since Desmond Howard have the Packers had a special teams weapon that could routinely flip field position. They have one now in rookie Randall Cobb, and you better believe that teams are treating him as such. As the season wore on, more and more teams hedged their bets and kicked away from Cobb.

At the very least, Cobb can ensure the Packers aren’t playing offense from the shadow of their own goal posts Sunday. And if the Giants give him enough chances, Cobb can break that one big play that can turn the game.

2. Opposite rush

Expecting a breakout performance from the Packers’ outside linebacker position after 16 games of mediocrity (that’s putting it nicely) is overly optimistic. But there is some hope that the Packers can get something from a player opposite Clay Matthews Sunday.

Brad Jones showed some life in Week 17 with a hustle sack and a couple of stops in the running game. He’ll likely get the majority of the early snaps against the Giants. In addition, Erik Walden had one of his better pass rushing games of the season back in Week 13 in New York. A solid performance from either player, or preferably both, would be a huge lift for the Packers defense.

3. Big Fella catchin’ on

For all the criticism Jermichael Finley took during most of the regular season, the Packers’ enigmatic tight end really started to come on during the last five games of the season. A five-game stretch that saw him catch 19 passes for 254 yards and three scores started in New York, where Finley went for 87 yards, including a huge catch on the Packers’ game-winning drive, and a first-half touchdown.

11

January

Packers Stock Report: Divisional Playoff Round Edition

Charlie Peprah's play will be a key factor against the Giants on Sunday.

Hopefully the Packers didn’t spend their playoff bye week the same way I spent mine: Overeating, overdrinking and overtanning on the beach in Mexico. My cholesterol, blood-alcohol level and waist-line are at all-time highs right now.

If I had to play against the Giants on Sunday, they would have to hoist me into a wheelbarrow, push me onto the field, and dump me at the 50-yard line. My massive girth would probably manage to come up with at least one tackle. At the very least, the ballcarrier would be slowed by having to run around my Corona-filled belly.

But enough about me. I didn’t see any Packers players on the beach or in the bars so they were (probably) getting ready to play the Giants and win a Super Bowl.

This week’s stock report is different than the others. Since the Packers didn’t play, I’m listing five players that need to play at either a rising or steady level on Sunday. If each player does this, the Packers should win and play for the NFC championship at Lambeau Field.

Charlie Peprah
Ever since the Packers defense gave up a bunch of long passes to the Giants in Week 13, it seems like Dom Capers has instructed his CBs to give opposing WRs a huge cushion at the line of scrimmage. I think a lack of trust in Peprah plays a role in Capers’ conservative approach. Peprah was bad against the Giants and hasn’t been consistent in doing what any safety needs to do: provide coverage over the top to defend the deep pass. If Peprah has a good game on Sunday, it means the Giants aren’t connecting on long bombs. If Peprah has an outstanding game on Sunday, it also means the Giants TEs are contained and their run game is limited. I’d settle for two of the three.

Chad Clifton
Welcome back, Chad. Now go out there and block Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. Clifton was as sturdy as ever in the playoffs last season and, if healthy,  I have no doubt he’ll hold his own against whomever the Giants line up across from him. If Clifton is good, and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell gets frustrated and starts blitzing, Rodgers will pick it apart and the Packers will roll.

6

December

Week 14 Packers Stock Report: Rodgers and Matthews Rising, Peprah and Newhouse Falling

Great win on Sunday for the Packers. A signature win.

I’m not sure if I’d call this week’s stock report “great” or “signature,” but nonetheless, here it is:

Aaron Rodgers
After the first half, I thought this might be the week that Rodgers drops out of the rising category. Boy, than was a dumb thought. Rodgers  came to life in the second half, overcoming several dropped passes and shaky protection to keep the Packers out front and eventually put together a game-winning drive with 58 seconds left. He finished with a QB rating of 106, his lowest of the season, but I think we’ll let that slide this one time.

Clay Matthews
Can you name another player on defense that did much of anything on Sunday? Walden had a few pressures. Shields tipped away a couple of passes. Raji was active early. Otherwise, Matthews was the lone bright spot on D.

Jordy Nelson
It didn’t matter if Nelson was covered or only had a few inches to work with along the sideline, he was determined to make the catch when Rodgers threw it to him. A nice rebound game for No. 87 after a ho-hum performance against the Lions.

Steady

Greg Jennings
Not even the NFL’s silly rules about catches in the end zone could keep Jennings from scoring. After a brief slowdown in weeks nine and 10, Jennings is back on track.

Donald Driver
Two of Driver’s four catches on Sunday went for touchdowns. Not bad for an old-timer. Most importantly, Driver didn’t come down with a case of the dropsies like most of the other Packers WRs and TEs.

Falling

Charlie Peprah
Many readers pointed out in the comments section of my game summary that the loss of Nick Collins is negatively impacting Peprah. This is 100 true. Unfortunately, Collins is also not able to protect Peprah from landing in this week’s falling category.

Marshall Newhouse
I really went back and forth on including Newhouse here. The Giants front four might be the best in football. Newhouse is essentially a rookie. Rodgers dropped back to pass 50 times on Sunday. Talk bout a near-impossible task. There was bound to be some pressures allowed by the young man. However, when the goal is the Super Bowl, inexperience, quality of opponent and difficult assignments are no excuse. Newhouse needs to clean it up.