I can see you eyeing that big red button. Don’t lie; it’s real tempting to hit the panic button right now isn’t it?
Yes, the Green Bay Packers are off to a 2-0 start after a couple of games that had Packer Nation sweating bullets. Still, a win is a win right? That said, there is one major cause for concern for the defending world champions and it got much more dangerous with the news Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins is out for the season with a neck injury.
It’s the pass defense. Is it time to worry?
Well, first we have a very small body of work to go off of. It’s still very early in the season and the issue is very correctable as long as other playmakers in the secondary don’t continue to go down with injury. You also have to consider that the loss of OTAs and mini-camps this offseason due to the lockout. The Packers are very young in the secondary behind their starters and the loss of practice reps was definitely a setback.
We must also take into consideration the quality of the two teams the Packers have faced thus far. The Saints have an offense that is just as potent as the Packers and have a quarterback on par with Aaron Rodgers in Drew Brees. Many were expecting a potential shootout on opening night and that is what happened. The defense made a heroic goal line stand at the end to seal the win, but neither defense succeeded much in shutting down the opposition’s passing attack.
Next were the Carolina Panthers. The league and especially the FOX broadcast team was going gaga over rookie Cam Newton as the “next big thing” in the world of NFL quarterbacks. Others expected the Packers defense to drag him back down to earth. Well, Charles Woodson did with his two interceptions, but the rest of the pass defense pretty much let Newton have his way as he again threw for over 400 yards.
Is this a legitimate reason to throw up the red flag or is Newton truly the next elite quarterback? Again, it’s too soon to tell.
The next game will speak volumes about how much trouble the Packers pass defense is in as they face old foe Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. In three games last season, Cutler was under siege facing constant pressure and was intercepted four times by the Packers in two full and one partial game. The Packers know how to beat Cutler and if he has a stellar day next Sunday, then there is cause for concern.
If the Packers can shut Cutler down, then all will be well again. It’s a very strong possibility as Cutler has been beaten up quite a bit in the first two games of the year behind a very leaky offensive line. This could be just what the doctor ordered for the Packers pass defense to get back in its groove.
This of course is not to diminish how big of a loss Collins is to the Packers defense. You just can’t replace a talent like him. However, this team has been through this before and walked away with the Lombardi Trophy. If I’m Mike McCarthy, I’m playing the “We’ve done this once before. We can do it again.”
I’m looking at you, Charlie Peprah and Morgan Burnett. Next man up!
I don’t think there will be much panic from within that locker room and the fans are seemingly following suit. Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t been noticing much “the sky is falling!” from fans in the past 24 hours since Collins was ruled out for the year. Fans are still concerned about the loss, but the utter faith they have in Ted Thompson’s system is on display.
So to answer the original question: “Is it time to panic about the Packers pass defense?”
In a word: no. Or at least, not yet. The secondary has to realize they can’t keep hiding behind an explosive offense forever and that they have to step up if this team wants to continue winning. Should the secondary continue to struggle, expect defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Thompson to make the necessary adjustments to keep the defense afloat. Both men are too good at their jobs to let the pass defense become the weight that ultimately sinks the Packers’ season.
The team is off to a good start. Yet it’s far from a perfect start and as the season goes on the Packers will continue to face adversity.
This just happens to be one of the many hurdles they will have to jump on their way to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke