1) Introduction: Sam Shields was an undrafted free agent going into the 2010 season and when the Green Bay Packers picked him up, no one knew the impact he would have on the team’s march to the Super Bowl XLV title. A wide receiver and special teams player in his three years at the University of Miami, Shields was a speedster that the Packers decided to convert into a defensive back to add needed depth to their secondary. Shields made one of the plays of the season as he intercepted Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie in the NFC Championship to send the Packers to Super Bowl XLV.
3) Expectations coming into the season: Entering his second season, the expectation for Shields was to continue to grow. You don’t go from playing wide receiver to All-Pro secondary in one season so the Packers were expecting a few more bumps in the road. As one of the players who helped fuel the Packers’ magical run in 2010, Shields would have the privilege of learning behind Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams while playing the role of nickel back. Shields was expected to be aggressive in line with the rest of the secondary and continue to grow.
4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The top play of Shields’ season came in the regular season finale as his interception of Matthew Stafford sealed the Packers’ 45-41 win over the Detroit Lions and giving the Packers a sweep of their NFC North opponents. It was the same knack for a clutch play that Shields displayed in the 2010 postseason.
Unfortunately, Shields’ worst play came in the Packers’ next game at the worst possible time. The hail mary the Giants threw at the end of the first half was the dagger that put the Packers’ stellar 15-1 campaign on ice for good. It deflated the team as well as the Lambeau Field crowd. Even a nose tackle would know that in a play like that, all you have to know is knock the ball down. Shields and the rest of the defenders on that play failed to do even that.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: To sum up his 2011 season, all that can be said is Shields regressed and that regression took its toll on the entire secondary. Far too often they were shredded by opponents and were too often bailed out by Aaron Rodgers and the high octane Packers offense. It was a flaw that proved fatal in the playoffs. This isn’t to lay the blame solely on Shields, but he was one the defenders who took the biggest step backward this season and the Packers paid dearly for it.
6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: As explained earlier, Shields’ absent-mindedness (along with others) during that hail mary is what ultimately killed the Packers’ season. He was burned all game by the Giants wide receivers and like the rest of the secondary, he must improve a great deal in 2012 to prove he is a long-term option in the defensive backfield for the Packers.
Season Report Card:
(C-) Level of expectations met during the season
(D) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(F) Contributions to team during the playoffs
Overall Grade: D——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke