1) Introduction: Remember back in August when Mike McCarthy and Packers management kept preaching about “improving from within?” As usual, the Packers were not buyers in the free agent market, and most of us wondered how the team’s horrendous pass defense could possibly improve after a rough end to the 2009 season. We were even more skeptical once it became apparent that Sam Shields — an undrafted rookie who played cornerback for only one season in college — was going to be Green Bay’s nickel back. However, once the 2010 season concluded and the Packers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, everyone that originally questioned why Shields was given such a key role was pointing to the rookie as a major reason why the Packers were world champs.
Height: 5-11 Weight: 184 lbs.
3) Expectations coming into the season: Not screw up too badly. While people questioned Shields’ skills as a DB, nobody questioned his raw ability. It became apparent early in practice that Shields could run with any WR in the NFL and hold his own when it came to quickness. Consistency was the major question mark. Could Shields avoid major mistakes that would cancel out any positive plays he makes?
4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Highlights included a two interception, one sack performance in the NFC Championship, a sprawling one-handed interception on a pass from Jon Kitna early in the Cowboys game, and picking off Eli Manning early in the fourth quarter of the Giants game. Lowlights included getting burned by Mike Wallace for a touchdown in the Super Bowl and struggling to help out with perimeter run defense throughout the season.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Major. Shields’ consistency was his biggest contribution. Yes, he made the occasional (undrafted) rookie blunder, but not nearly as many as we thought he would. Shields’ consistency allowed Dom Capers to experiment with his defense and help cover up for a lack of manpower at LB. Because Capers did not have to devise schemes to help a struggling Shields, the Packers defense was able to get creative and take a major leap forward.
6) Player’s contributions during the 6-win end-of-season run: Several shining moments. Nothing can top Shields performance in the NFC Championship game. He helped knock out Jay Cutler with a sack, thrwarted a major momentum shift with his interception before halftime, and sealed a trip to the Super Bowl with his pick on the Bears’ final drive.
Season Report Card:
(A-) Level of expectations met during the season
(B) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(B) Contributions to team’s success during the playoff run (last 6 games)
Overall Grade for the year: B——————
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .