Packers DBs aren’t secondary
Cornerback Jarrett Bush. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - In the secondary, the Packers have it both ways, enviable depth at cornerback while short in numbers at safety.
There are a lot of teams that would like to have the kind of depth Green Bay has at cornerback with Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Sam Shields, and Davon House. Throw rookie 5th round draft pick Micah Hyde and veteran special teams ace Jarrett Bush into the mix, and you have a lot of capable or better options on the corners of the defense.
While the numbers are not as large at safety, with good health (I know a huge “if” with the way things have gone for the Packers in recent seasons) they should be fine. Morgan Burnett is the leader and on-field coordinator of the secondary and his new four-year contract reflects the belief the organization has in the 4th-year player out of Georgia Tech.
The Packers did not draft, nor did they acquire, a front line free agent safety to pair with Burnett. They feel very good about two young players competing for the job: M.D. Jennings, a 3rd year free agent out of Arkansas St., and Jerron McMillian, a 4th round draft choice out of Maine last year.
McMillian is a hitter who made 30 total tackles, 21 solo with an interception a fumble recovery and 12 pass breakups last season.
Jennings has bulked up to just over 200 pounds this off-season. He made 46 tackles and returned an interception 70 yards for a touchdown at Detroit.
You can’t fill all of your needs in an off season, but if safety is a perceived need, the Packers passed up players in free agency and the draft because they believe they have a starting caliber safety opposite Burnett already in house.
At cornerback, as stated earlier, I don’t know if there is a team with the kind of quality depth the Packers have at this crucial position on defense.
Williams is the veteran leader, Hayward an emerging talent, and Shields made 3 interceptions last year and is playing on a one-year deal. He could break through to another level.
House emerged a starter last Summer, then suffered a shoulder injury in the first pre-season game at San Diego and did not reach the field again until week 7. He played in 9 games, made 18 tackles, a sack, and had 13 pass breakups.
I like the rookie fifth round draft pick out of Iowa, Micah Hyde. He did not run the fastest forty (4.57), but this is a kid who appears to have very good functional football speed. Hyde looks to be a natural cover corner and brings credentials. He was the Big Ten Defensive Back of the year last season. Another player I’m looking forward to seeing in camp is Brandon Smith (6-1, 205) out of Arizona St. The free agent certainly looks the part!
Coach Mike McCarthy has said many times, the improvement of a football team rests largely with its second and third-year players, but there are exceptions to every rule.
This defense needs rookie first round draft choice Datone Jones to be a player right now at defensive end. Can he replace Cullen Jenkins? I can’t believe we are still asking that question three years after Jenkins left in free agency.
Second-year outside linebacker Nick Perry is almost like a rookie. He missed all but six games a season ago. Perry needs to be the compliment to Clay Matthews and his emergence as a true complete linebacker (he was a defensive end in college) is critical.
In the secondary, either Jennings or former 4th-round pick McMillian need to become a solid starter opposite Burnett to shore up the secondary.
Statistically, the defense improved by leaps and bounds overall in yardage and passing yards allowed per game last season, but this unit must force more turnovers - specifically fumbles, just 5 fumble recoveries and only 18 forced fumbles all of last season. The run defense must be better after than yeilding 118.5 yards and a 4.5 average per attempt to their opponents. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson rushed for 508 yards in three games against the Green Bay defense.
You have to like the options defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his staff have available to them in terms of personnel, and if these young people emerge, this unit will step to the next level.
Coming up tomorrow, we begin to break down the offense for the Packers with training camp now just a week away.