The performance of the Green Bay secondary in 2011 was tainted by the loss of Nick Collins in Week 2. Through just a few games, fans and experts discovered Collins’ substantial value to the proclaimed best secondary in football. It became evident that second-year safety Morgan Burnett couldn’t carry Charlie Peprah’s weight the same way Collins could in 2010.
Miscommunications between the safeties and cornerbacks were common, resulting in home run plays from the opposition. The meeting between San Diego and Detroit (at home) were particularly painful as big receivers Vincent Jackson and Calvin Johnson teed off on Tramon Williams. At the same time, the Packer secondary managed their same turnover prowess for most of the season – despite close to no pass rush up front.
Though he was routinely matched up against the opposition’s best wide out, Williams experienced the most surprising regression of all members of the secondary. Not far behind was Sam Shields whose poor tackling limited regular playing time down the stretch. Charles Woodson earned himself a pro bowl spot but that couldn’t hide his age in coverage. Speculation has already begun on Woodson’s potential move to safety.
The 2011 Jarrett Bush was not as much of a liability in coverage as the Bush of years past. In fact, Bush had a couple solid games late in the season, stealing some playing time at nickelback from Shields. Rookie Davon House was a regular among the inactives during the regular season, though Joe Whitt repeatedly played up the New Mexico State product’s potential.
Cornerbacks Grade: C
The Burnett and Peprah duo in the deep secondary was a hit-or-miss situation all season long. In his first full season as a pro, Burnett made big plays for the defense – and then helped create some for the opposition. Burnett’s youth and inexperience made it difficult to cover up Peprah’s sheer lack of ability. No.42 showed that he just wasn’t No.36 at free safety – at least not yet.
While Peprah also made several highlight reels, his busts showed why the Packers were okay with cutting him loose two training camps ago. As I mentioned, neither the safeties nor the cornerbacks received any help up front, often having to stay with a receiver for six-plus seconds. Collins’ presence in the defensive backfield is now obvious but I also don’t think the secondary is nearly as bad as they played in 2011.