Category Archives: Charles Woodson

16

June

Don’t Forget About Safety Sean Richardson

Safety Sean Richardson. Photo credit: Royalbroil (Wikimedia Commons)

No one will argue that the safety position was a major deficiency for the Green Bay Packers during the 2013-14 season. They didn’t generate a single interception and they frequently looked lost in coverage. Now, as we enter the 2014-15 campaign, it’s poised to be a position of strength.

For starters, gone is M.D. Jennings, who is now competing for a roster spot in Chicago. Entering is first-round draft selection Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who, according to many, fell as a gift to the Packers at the 21st spot.

Also garnering headlines is versatile defensive back Micah Hyde. Last year, he played mainly in the nickel substitution packages or covering the slot receiver. However, during the most recent OTAs, he took first-team reps at safety alongside Morgan Burnett.

With the combination of Clinton-Dix and Hyde competing for playing time next to Burnett, it appears the Packers are set at the starting safety tandem.

Third-year player Sean Richardson would beg to differ. His career almost never got started when he sustained a serious neck injury during his 2012 rookie campaign, but now that he’s fully healed, he’s poised to make some noise in the defensive secondary as he enters another season in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ system.

It’s easy to forget about Richardson because he went undrafted in 2012 and then free missed extensive time during the most crucial first two years of a young player’s developmental window.

However, his measurables cannot be ignored. When compared to Clinton-Dix, he is bigger (6’2″ and 216 lbs. to 6’1″ and 208 lbs.), faster (4.52 secs to 4.58 secs in the 40-yard dash), stronger (22 reps to 11 reps at the bench press), more explosive (38.5″ to 33.0″ inches in the vertical jump and 128″ to 119″ in the broad jump), and more agile (7.01 secs to 7.16 secs) in the 3-cone drill).

These aren’t knocks against Clinton-Dix at all because he is considered a first-round talent and should make an immediate impact.

It simply means we can’t forget about Richardson because he is a rare combination of size, strength, and speed.

Richardson has elite measurables, but he simply needs time to develop his game. He went undrafted because scouts thought his coverage skills fell short of what his athleticism should dictate.

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2

June

Xs and Os: The Double-High Safety Defense (Cover 2)

The cover 2 defense has two safeties splitting the deep half of the field.

The cover 2 pass defense has both safeties splitting the deep half of the field equally.

Now that the Green Bay Packers presumably have two capable safeties roaming the back end of the defense in Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, defensive coordinator Dom Capers will probably be playing more cover 2, which is a staple at all levels of organized football.

The cover 2 is a necessity in modern football defenses because the game has evolved into a passing aerial circus. By placing two safeties deep in the defensive backfield, the defense has more protection against deep passes.

This article breaks down the basics of the double-high safety defense, which is more commonly known as the cover 2. As you’ll see, there are different flavors of the cover 2.

Of course, this article comes with my standard disclaimer that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only.

Cover 2 Defense Defined

When defending the field, the defense typically divides the area vertically into “halves.” The underneath half typically extends 7 yards from the line of scrimmage and the deep half usually extends 15-20 from the line of scrimmage.

In the double-high safety defense (cover 2), the free safety and the strong safety play zone defense and each guard half of the deep half. They must cover any receiver entering their respective half of the field and drive towards to the ball once it is in the air.

The GIF below highlights the assignments.

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Strengths of Cover 2

Football teams that face passing offenses usually must play cover 2 during some point in the game. It is an effective defense against the pass because it allows the defense to drop seven defenders into pass coverage. By having the safeties play zone in the back end, the deep half of the field has two defenders guarding against deep throws. This is a more conservative pass defense than the single-high safety (cover 1) defense.

The safeties are there to bail out cornerbacks on deep balls or to double cover more skilled receivers running deep into the formation.

Weaknesses of Cover 2

Since the cover 2 usually drops seven defenders into pass coverage, it means it is primarily a pass defense. In other words, when running the cover 2, the defense typically cannot place eight defenders in the box to guard against the run.

23

April

Packing the Stats: How the Packers Invest

Packing the StatsOne thing that many fans have noticed over the years is that Ted Thompson does not like to draft interior offensive linemen, instead preferring to draft tackles and converting them into the interior once they reach the NFL.  This concept seems to indicate that in the NFL there is a premium placed on some positions while not others; for instance quarterback is naturally considered the premium position of premium positions, traditionally followed by some combination of pass rushers and wide receivers.  However each team is different, for instance while the Packers do not put much stock into interior offensive linemen, the Packers have shown a love for fullback/H-backs which most team’s don’t even keep a roster spot for anymore.  So the question is, what are the positions that Ted Thompson favors or is willing to spend precious draft resources for and does Thompson’s weight of draft investment differ significantly with other teams?

To measure this, I took every draft selection made by Ted Thompson during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, assigned each player to the position they played for the majority of the time and then assigned them a draft value based on which pick they were selected using the “Jimmy Johnson’s Dallas Cowboys” draft trade chart as a metric.  Some caveats of course is that the Packers did switch from a 4-3 bump and run style defense to a blitzburgh 3-4 defense in 2009, which obviously changes what type of players the Packers select and where players ultimately end up playing (for instance AJ Hawk was supposed to play OLB in the 4-3 and moved to ILB in the 3-4).  Also the trade chart has come under scrutiny as of late (myself included); it’s unlikely to be all that accurate or precise in determining trade value and it’s likely that every team has their own modified chart with different values for each draft pick.  However, since all of this information is kept tightly in war rooms (unless you happen to be ironically the Dallas Cowboys), the original trade chart will be used knowing that the rough values are likely to be similar.

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26

March

Patience and Proactivity Pay Off for Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

General manager Ted Thompson runs the Green Bay Packers football operations his way.

The Thompson way is characterized by accumulating draft picks, developing drafted players, re-signing young Packers players on the rise, and largely avoiding bidding wars with players leaving other teams during the opening of free agency.

Depending on the fans prospective, this is usually a love or hate relationship. Fans either love the draft and develop approach or long for big name signings in free agency.

However, Ted Thompson has utilized a combination of patience and proactivity to bring his vision of building a franchise to life.

Thompson isn’t afraid of free agency. Rather, he waits until the initial frenzy is over to avoid overpaying players. Doing this has yielded quality players in the past, including Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, who were both signed in 2006.

Both Pickett and Woodson were integral players in the 2010 Super Bowl run, and when looking back at their contracts, they appeared to be relative bargains when compared to their contributions to the team.

When free agency opened in 2014, Thompson appeared to be quiet. While teams like the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints were throwing money around like they printed it, Thompson waited.

By waiting until the overpaying binge subsided, he was able to sign defensive end Julius Peppers at a very competitive contract (3 years, $30 million) and bolster the interior defensive line with Letroy Guion (1 year, $1 million).

Will Peppers have the same impact as either Woodson or Pickett? We certainly hope so, but only time will tell.

Rather than panicking and overpaying impeding offensive free agents running back James Starks and tight end Andrew Quarless, Thompson was able to bring them back for a modest investment (2 years, $3.17 million and 2 years, $3 million, respectively).

Not only is Thompson patient, he’s also proactive.

He’s great at extending players before they ever hit free agency. Similarly, he has knack for re-signing his own players in that small window between when their contracts expire and when they’re able to test the market.

12

June

A.J. Hawk, Dave Robinson honored at Lee Remmel banquet

Former Packers LB Dave Robinson

Former Packers LB Dave Robinson

At the 14th Lee Remmel Sports Awards Banquet on June 11–what would have been Vince Lombardi’s 100th birthday–Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk and Lombardi-era star Dave Robinson each received an award for their achievements on and off the field.

Hawk was the recipient of the Professional Achievement Award. Since being selected No. 5 overall by the Packers in 2006, Hawk has proven to be a reliable piece of the defense, playing in 110 of a possible 112 regular season games in seven seasons.

“From the very first step off the plane, we realized that there’s something special here,” Hawk said. “Something is different, and it’s so unique.”

Off the field, Hawk has remained active in the community, serving as the spokesman for the Wisconsin Special Olympics. Hawk has also supported the Donald Driver Foundation, the Jerry Parins Cruise for Cancer, the Greg Jennings Foundation, the Al Harris Outreach Program, and the 2nd & 7 Foundation, which is fellow Ohio State alum Mike Vrabel’s charity.

“I love being able to play football here, and I hope to do it for as long as possible,” Hawk said. “I hope to bring many more Super Bowls back to Green Bay. I got one, but sitting next to a guy like Dave, that’s nothing. He laughs at that.”

Hawk was a starter on the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV championship team, whereas Robinson started for the Packers in Super Bowls I and II, which capped off an historic run of three consecutive World Championships.

While accepting the Distinguished Service Award, Robinson reminisced about the 1966 NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys. With a berth in Super Bowl I on the line and facing a fourth-and-goal late in the fourth quarter, Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith was in Robinson’s grasp before his desperation pass was intercepted by Tom Brown. The Packers ran the clock out and won 34-27, punching their ticket to the first ever Super Bowl.

“Without that game, the Lombardi Trophy may very well be called the Landry Trophy,” Robinson said. “And that just makes me sick.”

In Robinson’s ten years in Green Bay, the Packers never lost to the Cowboys, with the exception of one exhibition game in Dallas. Robinson, a member of the 1960s All-Decade team, still questions the Cowboys’ “America’s Team” label.

31

May

Who Is Green Bay’s Other Starting Safety?

Packers rookie S Jerron McMillian

McMillian appears to be a frontrunner to claim one of the starting safety spots

One of the position battles that is and will continue to be a heavy focus in Green Bay is at safety.  Entrenched in one starting role is Morgan Burnett, who enters his fourth season and appears poised to take a step forward in becoming one of the team’s best defensive players.  The other safety position is still up for grabs amongst Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings and Sean Richardson.  This week, the team also signed undrafted free agent David Fulton from Chowan University (in North Carolina for those wondering).

With safety having been one of the team’s bigger needs heading into last month’s draft, the question seemed to be not “if” but “when” they would address the position.  Among the top prospects were Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, LSU’s Eric Reid, Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien and Florida’s Matt Elam.  Surely one of those would be available when Green Bay picked at the 26th spot.  That pick came and went, along with 10 others, and not one safety was selected.

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson has had a knack for standing pat at a position that he feels already has the depth and talent necessary to be effective.  In 2010 and after starting running back Ryan Grant went down early in the season, the team seemingly needed another option.  Marshawn Lynch and DeAngelo Williams were both rumored to be available via trade.  Instead, Thompson stuck with the rotation of Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and James Starks.  It’s no secret, by now, that Thompson prefers his own players and to develop them versus playing in free agency year in and year out.  It appears that the Packers are, once again, exercising that mindset at safety.

Just prior to the draft, the Packers parted ways with long-time veteran Charles Woodson, who was moved to safety before last season.  That left a hole and only raised more speculation that the team would look to add a safety early in the draft.  Instead, they entered this spring’s organized team activities with Burnett, McMillian, Jennings and Richardson all splitting reps at practice.

21

May

Packers News: Charles Woodson signs with Raiders

Former Packers DB Charles Woodson

Former Packers DB Charles Woodson

After another lengthy stint on the free-agent market, former Packers defensive back Charles Woodson has signed a one-year contract to return to the Oakland Raiders, according to the team’s official Twitter account.

Woodson was the No. 4 overall pick to the Raiders in the 1998 NFL Draft. He played eight years with Oakland but had no serious suitors when he became a free agent in 2005.

Late in the free-agent process, Woodson signed a seven-year contract to play in Green Bay where he would go on to play seven seasons. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and was a four-time All-Pro selection during his seven years with the Packers.

Versatility and instincts made Woodson a turnover machine at the peak of his career. His post-game speech, in which he urged the team to have “one mind, one goal, one purpose and one heart” after defeating the Chicago Bears in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, is referenced on the team’s rings for Super Bowl XLV.

After originally suggesting he only wanted to play for a Super Bowl contendor, Woodson changed his tune as he remained unsigned. The Raiders won  But now Woodson, 36, will return to Oakland to help shore up a secondary that allowed the fifth-most points in the NFL last season.

The Packers, meanwhile, will turn to Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings to fill Woodson’s shoes safety. Both players saw time with the first-team defense Tuesday at the Packers first public OTA of the 2013 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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