Following the Packers’ week two win over Washington, defensive coordinator Dom Capers hinted at a bigger role for undrafted rookie Chris Banjo.
“You could see more and more of Chris Banjo,” Capers said, per Ty Dunne. “I thought he did well. He had one missed tackle one of those long runs, but other than that, I thought he did a nice job. He’s been a physical guy for us there through the preseason.”
And see more and more of Banjo, we did. Banjo was on the field for 54 of 56 snaps last week against the Bengals–more than M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian, according to Pro Football Focus.
Banjo’s snap count could very well go down once starter Morgan Burnett returns to the lineup. But from a physical standpoint, pairing Banjo with Burnett may give the Packers their most talented duo on the back end.
If the Packers could pull the best attributes from Jennings and McMillian, they’d have a top-notch player alongside Burnett. But Jennings (6-0 187) is limited as a run defender, and McMillian struggles in coverage.
Banjo, despite only playing 87 snaps on the season, may be the most complete player of the trio.
Jennings is coming off one of his best games as a professional at Cincinnati. He ranks 25th among 8o safeties who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, per PFF. McMillian had an impressive pass deflection against the Bengals, but his playing time has decreased dramatically since week one.
McMillian played all 81 snaps in the season opener at San Francisco but was on the field for just 14 plays two weeks later at Cincinnati.
After quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews, Burnett may be the Packers’ toughest player to replace. Burnett isn’t Nick Collins at this point of his career, but there’s a sizable talent gap at safety behind Burnett.
If the trend continues, McMillian could be demoted to Banjo’s role to start the season, which was primarily on special teams. Jennings, barring injury, will continue to see the field in some capacity, while Banjo’s role when Burnett returns remains up in the air.
In different defensive packages, the Packers utilize three safeties on the field at once. A healthy Burnett doesn’t come off the field, and Jennings has rebounded nicely since his shaky season debut against the 49ers. If it comes down to McMillian or Banjo for playing time, right now the undrafted rookie has the edge on last year’s fourth-round pick.
Banjo started last week’s game in Cincinnati, and he could be in line for a few more starts in the near future. Which means, in the words of Capers, we could be seeing even “more and more” of Banjo.
Just something to chew on while watching the Lions hand the Bears their first loss of the season. Yes, that’s a prediction.——————
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.