Morgan Burnett Emerging as Key Figure in Packers’ Secondary

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Green Bay Packers Safety Morgan Burnett
Safety Morgan Burnett Taking Charge

After the Green Bay Packers cut ties with Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, the importance of Morgan Burnett undoubtedly grew larger.On top of being the Packers’ key communicator on the back end of the defense, he was a turnover machine, constantly hovering deep in the middle of the defense waiting for his opportunity to jump routes or lay the lumber to an unsuspecting wide receiver.

And if the first week of training camp is any indication–Burnett appears capable of picking up right where Collins left off.

Playing alongside Collins, Burnett’s role often required him to play closer to the line of scrimmage–something that the 6’1″ 209-pound safety is certainly capable of doing but didn’t seem like a natural fit for his long build and rangy skill set.

Burnett missed the final 12 games games of his rookie season, and Collins missed the final 14 last year–as a result, the highly athletic and similarly skilled duo only started six games together. Now with Collins having been released by the team, Burnett will step in as the Packers’ “center fielder.”

On three consecutive plays at Tuesday morning’s practice at Ray Nitschke field, Burnett was the center of attention. First, he sprinted from the deep middle of the field to the sideline and broke up a beautiful Aaron Rodgers bomb to Jordy Nelson, then on the next play, jarred the ball loose from Jermichael Finley across the middle, and followed that up by intercepting Rodgers after Donald Driver lost his footing while running a route.

Tuesday’s practice was certainly both encouraging and impressive for everyone in Packer Country, but it was nothing new for Burnett, who arrived to camp in great shape and appears headed for a breakout season.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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  • Mr. Bacon

    It’s Morgan’s third year which is basically when he should be projected to come into his own. Personally a breakout season really isn’t a word I would use, because he was basically well liked by the scouts and was thought to have gone 2nd round so it wouldn’t be a surprise.

    Normally though what happens is that some cannot adjust to NFL, some do but really cannot break the ceiling and some simply have the will to become better.

    I think Morgan was always was going to be a person who would always make himself better. He would have had a couple more picks in the Super Bowl season because our Defensive Line was making the QB to throw bad passes. Sadly he tore his ACL.

    With Collins out, I would think that Burnett will at least be leading the team in INT. Teams will know about Tramon, and Woodson. They will try to pick on the 2nd CB (I don’t assume Woodson is a CB, he is just a Wildcard player) be it Shields or someone else.

    Shields may be regressing but he is still fast so they will try to throw it over his head and if the line is able to put front pressure and not back, the QB will be overthrowing it into Burnett’s hands alot.

  • JimR_in_DC

    Good post, Marques. I’m pulling for Burnett to have a great season.

  • http://cox.com/phx retiredgrampa

    No one can doubt the importance of Burnette with Collins out of the picture. But expecting him to match Nick is perhaps expecting too much But we are all pulling for Burnette to continue his ascendance.

  • Oppy

    Very sad we will never get to see Burnett come into his own while playing next to Nick Collins. I was looking forward to seeing the havoc those two could have generated on the league.

    I felt that the range and athleticism that Collins and Burnett have was unmatched in the NFL by all but Polamalu. They could be on the far hash marks, see the QB about to release, and make it to the opposite sideline to break up a play. That’s elite range.

    Man, it would have been something to watch, hope Burnett’s instincts someday sniff what Collins’ had. MD Jennings and Jerron McMillian are both very athletic prospects as well… Seems the Packers like to have sideline-to-sideline safeties in their stable.