Sam Shields: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

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Sam Shields

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.

2) Profile:

Sam Shields
Height: 5’11”
Weight:  184
AGE: 24

Career Stats:

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

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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

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  • Ron LC

    D- trend to F for me. Shields is not a good cover guy whn moving away from the line of scrimage. His strength is a high risk aggressive style which depends on good over the top coverage from the safeties. Without Collins that didn’t happen all year.

    He must learn more in the off-season. In the two losses this year when the Offense failed to deliver, the defense was required to play shut down football. They couldn’t. It takes a really bad effort to make Orton look like an all-pro. And they did it.

    Shields, IMHO, will be a very good corner in the future, He’s just a slow learner. A whole lot of remedial work to do this off-season Capers.

    • JimR_in_DC

      He needs to become a better tackler, too.

      • Ron LC

        Yep

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Ron,

      i don’t know that we can call him a slow learner. After all, he’s only played the position for 3 1/2 years and picked up Capers’ system enough to start as an UDFA in his first year.

      I think the issue is how the Packers’ D had to change their style due to lack of pass rush and the absence of Collins. Without Collins backing him up on that side, Shields was left to sink or swim. I guess he kind of treaded water uncomfortably.

      Teams definitely ran to his side more, mostly due to the revolving door at ROLB for the Packers and CM3 doing a much better job against the run this season.

  • http://cheeseheadtv.com/eat_more_cheese John Rehor

    Regardless of what the grade is (I’d go C- myself), the bigger issue is he must improve next season. Don’t think he was a flash in the pan in 2010, but if he doesnt show serious improvement have to wonder how much that will screw up the plans the Packers had for him in the future.

  • Ruppert

    I am a fan of Shields. But he had a bad year. Given his lack of time at corner, I wonder if the lockout didn’t really hinder his development. I hope the upcoming full offseason will get him back on the right track.

    • Oppy

      Biggest concern for me? The kid was flat out afraid of contact and simply seemed to refuse to tackle at the onset of the season.

      But the real concern came after he was hounded about the lack of physicality, responding to media with a ‘okay, okay, I get it, my tackling needs to get better.’.. We had one or two games of somewhat increased physicality, and then absolutely no more commitment to tackling thereafter.

      Someone needs to break a foot off in this kids’ ass. Even though I feel Shields has far more potential as a cover corner than Jarret Bush, it would send a firm message to Shields if he refuses to step up his game and take the tackling side more seriously, to bench him and give the reps to Jarret Bush, who might give up some plays, but you’ll be damn sure he’s going to tackle anyone, anywhere on the field. Shields will start to tackle, mark my words!

      • Zack

        I agree with the lack of physicallity statement. For those of us who have played football, you know that if you have a will to win you have no choice but to seek physicallity. He has all the potential to be a great cover corner and really good football player but when it comes down to it, you can coach a player’s flaws and give him the tools to be successful if he has the right level talent but the one thing you cannot give a player the will to win. If there isn’t an immediate change in attitude this off season then quit waisting your time on this kid. If he’s just in it for the money cut your losses and find someone else. It’s surprising to me that Woodson wasn’t jumping down his and Peprah’s throats after that TD in the Giants game at the end of the first half… I guess the patty cake mentallity adopted by pro football has filtered into the scenario as the veteran leader of the defense no longer chews out young players for doing stupid S*** or playing like they don’t care. Sad to see, I really had a higher opinion of Woodson before reflecting on the fact that he did not do anything about the lack of effort by his defense.

        • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

          Zack, you don’t know what happens in the locker room, so you can’t just assume Woodson said nothing…

          • Zack

            yes al, I agree that I don’t know what was said in the locker room but I know that with the lack of effort seen play in and play out I never saw him get in his face and let him know how bad he was doing. Yes that was the biggest impact that the packers felt all year but shields lack of effort, especially his fear of impact when it came to tackling, hurt us all year.

            • Oppy

              Agree with Al on not knowing what goes on in the locker room.

              That said, a disturbing trend in modern pro football is that so many players like to throw around the terminology: “It was a business decision”, in other words, “I decided the risk of physical injury was greater than my contract pays me, so I backed off contact.”

              Don’t get me wrong- I don’t expect guys to go head long into a sure neck injury.. But, um, you get paid to play football. Players of yesteryear (hell, players a decade ago) would not stand to hear a team mate say anything like that.. Now, it seems like a guy drops that line, and guys just nod their head in understanding.

  • Zack

    Fair enough I’ll drop the woodson thing. I just know that when I played football, all be it not on a pro level, and judging from years past in pro football the dynamic was very different. It seemed like players of old didn’t give a crap about hurting someone’s feelings. If you screwed up you got chewed out then and there without question and normally the ones leading that sentiment would be the veteran players… so to me it was unusual to not see that. but you’re right. the dynamic could be different with them whereas you don’t necessarily get in someone’s face publicly. You don’t want to hurt the sensitive boy’s feelings.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Yes, Zack, that’s how it was when I played football too. But the NFL, just like our society, is very different in 2012.

      • Ruppert

        Frankly, I don’t really care that much if Shields gets more physical against the run. Yeah, he has to improve to some degree–he has to at least give an honest attempt.

        But the NFL is defined by passing offense these days. And Shields’ future is in coverage. He needs to play more intelligently in pass defense. He needs to stop biting on double moves and he needs to stop peeking into the backfield. The guy is listed as 5′ 11″, 184#. That’s probably generous. I don’t want to see a guy that small taking on Brandon Jacobs too much. If he improves his pass D, I can live with a lack of physicality (albeit with honest attempts).