23

January

Morgan Burnett 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Morgan Burnett

Morgan Burnett

1) Introduction:  Green Bay Packers safety Morgan Burnett was signed to a four-year, $24.75 million contract extension last July.  He was seen as the anchor to the Packers secondary and many fans were hopeful that he would turn the proverbial corner much like his predecessor Nick Collins did in his fourth season.  After missing the first three games due to a hamstring injury, Burnett returned but was not nearly as effective as the team needed him to be.  The safety position remains the Packers’ biggest need area heading into 2014 and the underachievement of Burnett is part of the reason why.  For the first time in nearly 60 years, no Green Bay safeties logged an interception during an entire season.

2) Profile:

Morgan Mark Burnett

  • Age: 25
  • Born: 1/13/1989 in College Park, GA
  • Height: 6’01″
  • Weight: 209
  • College: Georgia Tech
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 4 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Burnett was expected to become more of a play maker and help the Packers continue to be among the league leaders in turnover margin.  While it’s asking a lot of any young safety to turn into another Nick Collins, the Packers were hoping that the contract extension and two solid seasons as a starter would help Burnett elevate his game.  With either of Jerron McMillian or M.D. Jennings returning, Burnett would be counted on help guide their development and help “quarterback” the secondary.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Burnett suffered a disappointing hamstring injury and missed the team’s first four games.  Upon his return, he strung together a few statistically good games before slumping during the middle part of the year.  Burnett’s biggest play of the season came on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions when he scooped up a fumble and ran it into the end zone for a defensive score.  But his 2013 season was marred with more missed tackles and opportunities.  In the wild card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, Burnett just missed a possible interception on a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis that surely would have put the Packers in good position to win and advance to the divisional round.  Outside of that, there were too many occasions where Burnett was out of place or took a bad angle and missed a tackle.  Burnett still tries to arm tackle too often and is easily shaken or juked.  Heading into 2014, Burnett needs to shore up his tackling if he wants to take the next step and show any kind of improvement.

16

January

Safety First: Packers’ offseason needs start in secondary

Morgan Burnett had a disappointing 2013 season, and the starting spot alongside him is very much up for grabs.

Morgan Burnett had a disappointing 2013 season, and the starting spot alongside him is very much up for grabs.

Injuries, Ted Thompson, Dom Capers, Nick Collins and more injuries. The reasons identified for the Green Bay Packers’ struggles at safety are plentiful, but the current state of the position leaves little room for debate.

The Packers are in less-than-ideal shape at safety. And it’s debatably the team’s most glaring need this offseason.

After missing the first three games of the season, Morgan Burnett was, as usual, an every-down player for the Packers, leading the safeties with 874 snaps played. M.D. Jennings, prior to seeing a reduction in playing time late in the season, finished second among the team’s safeties, as he was on the field for 809 snaps. But with Jennings’ future in doubt as he hits unrestricted free agency, the 2014 depth chart is foggy.

It may be unlikely but still possible that the Packers’ opening-day starter opposite Morgan Burnett is already on the roster, however he’s probably not currently listed as a safety.

Casey Hayward, who missed all of the 2013-14 season except for 88 plays, is set to return in 2014, which brings Micah Hyde’s situation into light. Hayward graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 cornerback as a rookie in 2012 and is at his best operating from the slot–the same spot Hyde saw most of his action this past season.

When he’s healthy, Hayward will be on the field. Given the Packers’ state at safety, Hyde’s best chance to see significant playing time may be at safety. Remember you’re living in a world in which Mike Neal plays outside linebacker.

Despite dropping what would have been a career-defining interception against the 49ers in crunch time a couple weeks ago, Hyde had a terrific rookie season, one in which he proved capable of playing all over the formation. If the Packers give him a full offseason of preparation, perhaps Hyde could be “the guy” alongside Burnett.

Of course, Hyde’s transition to safety hinges on the uncertain futures of cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. And both could be playing elsewhere next season.

Ideally, the Packers want two players who can play both free and strong safety. By committing to Morgan Burnett with a long-term contract, the Packers feel they have one such player already. But other than Burnett, the Packers have just Chris Banjo–and his 192 snaps played in 2013–and Sean Richardson (156) set to return next season at safety, and neither player has proven to be anything more than a solid run defender.

11

January

Cory’s Corner: Criticize Mike McCarthy not Dom Capers

Mike McCarthy turned up the conservative calls when Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9.

Mike McCarthy turned up the conservative calls when Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9.

Now that you’ve all had some time to thaw out after watching Phil Dawson put this season’s hopes and dreams on ice, it’s time to reflect on what just happened.

First of all, Mike McCarthy needs to get the lion’s share of criticism. He is under contract through the 2015 season at roughly $5 million per year. If any season was a good example of how much he needed to prove his coaching mettle, this was the one. He lost his star quarterback in Week 9 and magically backed into the playoffs thanks to the combined efforts of said quarterback’s right arm and the inept Bears’ defense.

He was also dealt the second-most important injury on the team in Jermichael Finley. Without him eating up the middle of the field, receivers had more work to do to get separation and move the chains.

Granted, he was blessed with the Offensive Rookie of the Year in my opinion in Eddie Lacy but McCarthy didn’t exactly utilize him very well. Too often when backups Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn were under center he was more apt to call the predictable running plays on first and second down which usually set up the usual 3rd-and-7. That’s a tall task for an NFL starter let alone a backup.

As soon as the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers they lost who they were. And the head coach, who is also known as a quarterback guru, cannot let that happen. I’m not saying McCarthy should expect left rollouts thrown on a dime by his backups, but he shouldn’t pare the playbook down to the JV level either. The best example is that fateful game when Rodgers suffered that left collarbone injury.

With the Bears beating the Packers 24-20 very early in the fourth quarter, McCarthy dialed up a Lacy run on 2nd-and-7 from the 50. The run around the left end generated two yards setting up a tough third down which ultimately failed. And that came on the heels of the Packers throwing for 29 yards on back-to-back plays that took place on second and first down.

There’s a time and place to be conservative. I realize that coaches’ jobs have been lost due to knee-jerk risky decisions but when your team is losing in the fourth quarter, it’s at least a good time to start contemplating moves against the grain.

29

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Lions 40, Packers 10

Morgan Burnett had a pretty sweet celebration. And the Packers put on a pretty ugly show.

Morgan Burnett had a pretty sweet celebration. And the Packers put on a pretty ugly show.

Aaron Rodgers may have a shot to play next week. And the fact that the Packers may have just played their last game without their quarterback may be the only positive takeaway from the team’s Thanksgiving debacle.

It’s hard to remember, but at one point this season, the Packers were 5-2 with what looked like a favorable upcoming schedule. One fractured collarbone later, and the Packers are 5-6-1 coming off what T.J.Lang called, “Probably the worst (expletive) offensive game in the history of the (expletive) Packers.”

With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers would have had more than seven first downs. They would have possessed the ball for more than 19 minutes. But I’m not sure if Rodgers would have helped tackle, confuse or even provide resistance to the Lions offense.

Still, if No. 12 is back and able to play Dec. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons, they have a chance. It’s hard to believe, but the Lions and Bears are both capable of losing two more games, and the Rodgers-led Packers could win their last four. If that’s the case, the Packers win the division.

After an atrocious showing like Thursday’s, it’s hard to find positives. Without question, the Packers’ postseason hopes are waning and there really weren’t any positives to take away from the Packers’ produce in Detroit.

But if there’ ever been a reason to be optimistic about an improved offense since Rodgers went down, it’s now. Simply because he might be back.

Thursday was ugly. So this is going to be brief.

Game Balls

Morgan Burnett

The Packers’ lone game ball goes to Morgan Burnett, solely because of his Funky Chicken celebration. Burnett didn’t play particularly well, but he had a pair of fumble recoveries and a sick touchdown dance. Way to go, Morgan. Nicely done.

Lame Calls

Offense

The Packers had 126 total yards and scored three points. The writing was on the wall when Matt Flynn looked past a wide open Andrew Quarless and tried to force the ball to Jordy Nelson–needless to say, the pass was incomplete. Detroit continually stacked the box to shut down Eddie Lacy–and they did, to the tune of 16 yards on 10 carries–and Flynn was simply unable to take advantage of it. It was the worst offensive showing I’ve seen in a NFL game a long, long time. But things weren’t all bad for the Packers offense. At least they had seven first downs.

24

October

Packers Stock Report: Greg Jennings Texts Aaron Rodgers Edition

ALLGBP.com intercepted a series of text messages between former Packers teammates Greg Jennings and Aaron Rodgers.

The staff here at ALLGBP.com managed to intercept a series of text messages between former Packers and current Vikings WR Greg Jennings and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. The following is an exclusive transcript of how their chat went down:

Greg Jennings: sup aaron

Aaron Rodgers: Who is this?

GJ: c’mon man. it’s greg. ur old friend!

AR: Greg from 7th grade? The kid who smelled funny and always ate ketchup and mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch?

GJ: nah man! greg Jennings. number 85! my catches got u ur first super bowl ring, remember? #BeGreat!!!!!!!!!!!

AR: Oh. Hi Greg.

GJ: i knew you’d be glad to hear from me again! so…….how r things?

AR: Fine.

GJ: how r my boys james, randall and Jordy? Do they ever ask about me? Do they ever say damn, it’d sure be nice if No. 85 was still around to provide us some tips on how to #BeGreat!!!!!!!!

AR: They’re also fine. And no.

GJ: that’s ok. Im sure they r overwhelmed with gratitude toward me since I decided to leave GB and give them the chance to get out from under my shadow.

AR: I’m sure that’s exactly how they feel, Greg.

GJ: so……how’s the weather in GB? still cold?

AR: Greg, what do you need? I’m busy. I just signed a $131 million contract extension and it’s a lot of work trying to decide how I want to spend all of this disposable income.

GJ: right, right, right. I signed a big contract 2 ya know? did u see that? i’m now the #1 WR on the Vikings!!!! SKOL!!!!!! they play a loud horn whenever i catch a first down!!!

**30 minutes later**

GJ: u still there, Aaron? u must have lost cell reception???????

AR: Greg, you always knew more about technology than me. Can you tell me how to block someone from ever texting me again?

GJ: Sure, just open ur settings, go into users, tap the block button…..hey, wait a minute! ur not trying to block me r u?????

AR: Ummmmm…..no. I’m asking for a friend…..

GJ: lets meet for dinner on Saturday night and I can show you. my treat. we can catch up since it’s been so long since we’ve hung out!!!!

17

October

Packers Stock Report: Beating the Super Bowl Champions Edition

Morgan Burnett brings down Ray Rice and plays a key role in a second quarter goal line stand for the Packers.

Every year the NFL schedule comes out and we try to boldly declare which teams have tough schedules and which teams appear to have a bunch of patsies and a clear path to the postseason. Every year our analysis is wrong and what once looked like a tough or easy schedule in July is completely the opposite come October.

The Packers appeared to have a nasty schedule initially, but the outlook isn’t so bad now. The Vikings are terrible, the Giants stink, the Steelers are bad, the Lions are the Lions and the Falcons are regressing. There isn’t another game on the schedule where I’d say the Packers are an obvious underdog.

Of course, that could all change in another couple weeks if any of the aforementioned teams get back on track.

The stock report is kind of the same way. Who knew that someone like Mason Crosby would make the steady category two weeks straight and A.J. Hawk would be a riser after week six?

Onto the stock report:

Rising

Morgan Burnett
Mr. Burnett earned that fat new contract he got this offseason during the Packers goal line stand in the second quarter against the Ravens. The free safety was in on three tackles during that key series of plays, including a stop on 3rd and 1 where he out-maneuvered ace blocking back Vonta Leach before bringing down the ball carrier.

A.J. Hawk
Remember when we couldn’t figure out why Ted Thompson cut Desmond Bishop and kept Hawk around? After three sacks on Sunday,
Hawk is having one of the best stretches of his career while Bishop tore his ACL and is out for the season. Chalk up another one in the smart move column for Thompson. (Side note: Best of luck to Bishop. He seems like a great guy who has experienced terrible luck these past two seasons. Here’s hoping you get another shot down the road, Desmond, and have better luck staying healthy.)

Eddie Lacy
Saavy investors bought stock in Lacy a few weeks ago. I’m always a little hesitant to put rookies in the rising category — especially a rookie running back on the pass-happy Packers — but Lacy belong here after a steady game against Detroit and strong finish on the road to help close out Baltimore.

12

October

Which Joe Flacco will the Packers see in Baltimore?

Joe Flacco has been pretty average for most of his career, except for the 2012 playoffs.

Joe Flacco has been pretty average for most of his career, except for the 2012 playoffs.

Prior to the 2012 season, Joe Flacco rejected a contract worth about $14 million per year. At the time, that contract seemed generous for a quarterback who had won five playoff games yet had never thrown more than 25 touchdowns in a season through four years.

But Flacco thought otherwise, so played out the final year of his rookie contract.

After a 9-2 start last year, the Ravens lost four of their last five regular-season games and backed into the playoffs at 10-6.

Then, Flacco put together a four-game postseason stretch in which he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title, throwing for 11 touchdowns without an interception, while posting a passer rating of at least 106.2 in each game.

Following Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco cashed in with a six-year contract worth around $20 million annually. He may be only slightly more (or not) than an average NFL quarterback, but he took a gamble—and it paid off.

This week, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers may be forced to put all his chips on the table to generate a pass rush against Flacco and the Ravens, as Green Bay will be without Clay Matthews for about a month.

Last season, with Matthews and Nick Perry out of the lineup nursing injuries, the Packers were forced to go with Erik Walden and Dezman Moses as their outside linebackers. This year, they’ll start Perry and Mike Neal in Matthews’ absence.

Matthews is unquestionably Green Bay’s most valuable player on the defensive side of the ball, and thanks to a hamstring injury that kept safety Morgan Burnett out of the lineup for the first three games, the Packers have yet to play a full game with their top two defensive players.

But even if the secondary is taking form with Burnett back, Flacco figures to have plenty of time to throw the ball behind a strengthened offensive line and against a Matthews-less Packers defensive front. Baltimore traded for Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe a couple weeks ago, and he’s expected to make his first start this weekend on Flacco’s blindside.

Flacco is what he is. As far as NFL quarterbacks go, Flacco’s a pretty Average Joe.