1) Introduction: Drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft, Burnett won himself the starting safety job alongside Nick Collins to begin his rookie season. Just four weeks in, however, Burnett blew out his ACL and missed the rest of the year, which included the Packers run to the Super Bowl. The knee was back to full strength in time for the start of Packers’ training camp.
Weight: 209 lbs.
3) Expectations coming into the season: There were a good number of talking heads that thought Burnett could be the Packers breakout defender in 2011. A healthy knee, plus the ball skills Burnett showed both at Georgia Tech and during the four games of his rookie season, gave him a real chance. And despite the Packers giving backup safety Charlie Peprah a two-year deal after the 2010 season, most fully expected Burnett to resume his starting role next to Collins in 2011.
4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: While the Packers were still giving up boatloads of yards through the first three weeks, Burnett was playing at a high level. He led the team in tackles with 14 against the Saints, intercepted a pass with a sack against the Panthers then picked off Jay Cutler twice in Chicago. In the lead up to Week 4 against the Rams, Burnett broke his hand and was forced to wear a club for several straight weeks. From that point on, the highlights were few and far between. The second-year safety didn’t force another turnover during the final 13 weeks. For a player that wasn’t able to make many plays near the line of scrimmage, that was significant.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Through three weeks, Burnett was making a push towards the Pro Bowl. But after the broken hand, he was just another part in a secondary that gave up more passing yards than any in NFL history. It’s hard to judge what kind of overall impact losing Nick Collins had on Burnett, as the Packers gave up back-to-back 400 yard-games with the pair healthy. But Collins’ injury did force Burnett to play the deep half almost exclusively, and that kept him from making plays near the line of scrimmage like he’s probably best at. Playing alongside Charlie Peprah did Burnett no favors, either. He needs to take a big jump next season, especially if Collins is forced to retire.
6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Burnett’s interception of Eli Manning in the second quarter could have been a game-changer. Faced with a blitz from Desmond Bishop, Manning overthrew his intended receiver and Burnett was there to scoop up the poor throw. But just four plays later, John Kuhn coughed up the football and the Packers defense was back on the field. Burnett finished his first career playoff game with four tackles and two pass defensed.
Season Report Card:
(C) Level of expectations met during the season
(C-) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(B) Contributions to team during the playoffs
Overall Grade: C——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2