Previewing Green Bay's New Secondary
By Jon Krouner
Seven-year veteran Tramon Williams stands as the senior citizen in the Green Bay Packers’ secondary following the unceremonious departure of Charles Woodson.
The 30-year-old Williams isn’t exactly ready to join AARP.
Despite his struggles with missed tackles, Williams is in line to be the Packers’ top corner come the Week 1 rematch against the San Francisco 49ers. Across from Williams is up-and-coming corner Sam Shields, who snagged an interception in each of Green Bay’s playoff games. Shields, a restricted free agent, is working on a long-term deal with the Packers, but still isn’t under contract.
Casey Hayward is the third corner in name only. He’s coming off an impressive rookie season in which he led the team with six interceptions and 22 passes defensed from the slot corner spot. The Vanderbilt product is undersized and likely to remain on the inside position where he’s most effective. Hayward’s instant success from the slot made Woodson expendable this offseason.
Behind Hayward is Davon House and Jarrett Bush. House has shown enough potential as a cover corner to replace Williams or Shields if need be.
Meanwhile, safety is arguably the thinnest position on the Packers’ depth chart.
General manager Ted Thompson and defensive coordinator Dom Capers appear comfortable with Morgan Burnett and Jerron McMillian as the team’s starting safeties. In fact, Green Bay passed on Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien and Florida’s Matt Elam in the first round of April’s NFL Draft. Both players would’ve challenged for a starting spot.
What’s perplexing is that Thompson failed to bolster his team’s secondary this offseason. The defensive backfield’s only addition was the fifth round selection of cornerback Micah Hyde out of Iowa. Besides Hyde, it’s the same crew, sans Woodson, from 2012
When Week 5 rolls around, Green Bay’s defense will be tasked with slowing down the NFL’s best receiver in Calvin Johnson. Last season, Megatron torched the Pack for 15 catches, 261 yards and one touchdown in two games. Sure, the Packers won both games, but Johnson - among others - exposed one of Green Bay’s most glaring weaknesses.
Green Bay’s secondary certainly wasn’t bad last season. The Packers allowed just 218 passing yards per game last season, 10th best in the NFL, but haven’t improved the secondary this offseason. Rookie defensive end Datone Jones improves an already dynamic pass rush, but the secondary certainly could afford a talent bump.
Does Packers’ brass forget the undoing the team suffered at the hands of Colin Kaepernick in their Divisional round loss? Kaepernick picked apart Green Bay’s seemingly overmatched secondary.
To return to the Super Bowl, the Packers will likely have to go through quarterbacks like Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. In today’s NFL of pass-first offenses, can the Packers afford to just stand pat in the secondary?
We’ll have to wait and see.