It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look back on the Green Bay Packers 2011 season and identify the obvious reasons for their defensive collapse.
Cullen Jenkins was sorely missed at right defensive end, little to no production was received from outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and Nick Collins’ season-ending neck injury handicapped the back end.
But one factor that gets overlooked is just how poor the tackling was for the Packers defense, especially in the secondary.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus effectively laid out just how bad it was for the Packers secondary in 2011.
According to the site, which reviews and grades every single play for every single player, the Packers trio of cornerbacks—Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields—was the worst tackling cornerback trio in the NFL.
And believe it not, the numbers weren’t even close.
Woodson missed 15 tackles on 87 attempts, Williams missed 16 on 80 attempts and Shields missed 10 on 40 attempts. Altogether, the three missed 41 tackles in 2011—a number that ranks them significantly above any other cornerback trio in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles were the first team that came to mind in comparison, but their trio of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie only missed 27 tackles last season.
All three of the Packers cornerbacks ranked in the bottom 20 of tackling efficiency, too.
Woodson has always been a player that missed his fair share of tackles, mostly because his fearlessness of playing near the line of scrimmage. Still, his 16 came at a higher rate than the 14 he had in 2010 in 20 games and the nine he missed during his Defensive Player of the Year season in 2009.
Williams allowed 68 catches in 2011, so his opportunities for missed tackles were obviously increased. During 2010, a year in which Williams established himself as a top-flight cover corner, he missed just nine. A shoulder injury suffered in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints certainly had an impact on how physical Williams was both in coverage and as a tackler.
Shields is the most worrisome case, and you don’t need the numbers to tell you how poorly he tackled last season. He consistently showed poor technique and effort as a tackler in 2011. For whatever reason, it was almost if Shields avoided playing physical during his sophomore season. Maybe that’s to be expected from a guy still learning the position, but Shields has a long ways to go. Of the 101 eligible cornerbacks last season, Shields ranked 96th in tackling efficiency. His regression from 2010 to 2011 was enough to make you wonder what kind of future he really has at the position. Missing one in every five tackle attempts is not acceptable for a player that was in on over 702 defensive snaps.
Overall, tackling in the secondary was undoubtedly a contributing factor to why the Packers defense allowed passing yards at a historic rate in 2011. While there was no pass rush to help the secondary, once passes were completed, receivers and tight ends often chewed up more yards than they should have because of poor tackling from the cornerbacks.
Tackling can be improved and sharpened with coaching, and it is now cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt’s job to improve that area leading into next season.
An awful showing like 2011 can’t be accepted. And the Packers can’t get back to being a top-five NFL defense without a better effort from the three cornerbacks that are consistently on the field.——————
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