January 12, 2008
'07 Secondary Evaluation
How does the Packers' secondary look after the 2007 regular season?
In my opinion, the Packers' starting cornerback tandem is second to none in the league. Al Harris is extremely effective in man coverage. His ability to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage makes it difficult for any wide out to run an effective route. He is surprisingly strong for his size, and still has the top-end speed needed to match up against today's speedy receivers. An obvious knock on Harris is his poor ball skills, evidenced by his perenial low interception totals. He does pick some balls off every year, but his focus is clearly on preventing a completion, not taking one to the house himself. He does seem to struggle against big, strong receivers (Burress, T.O., Vincent Jackson). Charles Woodson is a natural play-maker that has a nose for the ball. Although he gives up more catches than Harris, he is still solid in man coverage. His superb ball skills allow him to create loads of turnovers. In addition, Woodson supports the run game with his viscious tackling and pure tenacity. The biggest negative for Charles is his inability to stay healthy. While he does not miss too many games, he is a regular on the injury report, meaning his play is likely inhibited by nagging injuries. The biggest downside for this dynamic duo is their age. At 31 and 32 years old, they may not be long for professional football. The laundry list of players who fill the nickel and dime cornerback spots are virtually interchangeable. Williams, Blackmon, Walker, and Bush can all play well in spot duty, but not one is deserving of an NFL starting position. At safety, the Packers are good, but not great. It seems as though the recurring problem at SS has been solved, rather assuaged, for the time being by Atari Bigby. Atari is Japanese for 'attack,' and the shoe fits for Bigby. He is a devastating tackler with a propensity for dramatics. He has made some big plays this year in both coverage and run support, but has plenty of room for improvement. He needs to mature in terms of understanding his place on the field, and simply controlling his emotions. Please keep the crushing hits coming Atari, I can't get enough of them. Across from Atari is Nick Collins, who has been one of my favorite Packers since he was drafted. He plays the game with passion and truly loves what he does. Although his sophomore slump (more accurately, sophomore stagnation) carried over into the '07 season, I believe he will make strides before the start of next year. He is very fast and has an excellent closing burst, his man coverage skills and run support are above-average for a FS, and he flashes good ball skills on occasion. In order to improve, I look for Nick to move from a solid player to a standout player. That is, I would love to see him make more impact plays (i.e. turnovers, 3rd down stops, etc.) during the '08 season. If we don't see this kind of improvement, look for over-achieving backup Aaron Rouse to compete for the starting FS job.