Packers Rookie Jerron McMillian: Will Ted Thompson Strike Gold Again? All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Jerron McMillian
Can Jerron McMillian fill the shoes of Nick Collins?

It was a formula that paid dividends for the Green Bay Packers the last time around so GM Ted Thompson figured it was worth trying again.

In his first draft as head of the Packers football operations in 2005, Thompson selected a player from a small school who in time had a big impact on the organization.   In the second round of the 2005 draft, Thompson selected safety Nick Collins from small Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.  At the time, it was viewed as a reach taking a player from such a small school so early in the draft.  Many wondered what the then-rookie general manager was doing.

The “reach” paid off big time as Collins became the best safety the Packers have had since the retirement of Leroy Butler (no offense to Darren Sharper).  Collins will forever immortalized in Packers lore for his highlight reel pick-six of Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLV and the celebration following that was the cover image for the Green Bay Press Gazette following the Packers’ victory.

Fast forward to this past spring.  Thompson again found himself in need of safety, ironically because Collins suffered a likely career-ending neck injury in Week 2 last season.  Thompson found a diamond In the rough in Collins, so Thompson may have thought he could do it again.

Enter Jerron McMillian, the Packers’ fourth round pick in the 2012 draft.  Like Collins, McMillian hails from a small college—Maine.  Perhaps a state university isn’t necessarily “small” but since it’s Maine I doubt many people will consider his university a powerhouse.

The tale of the tape on McMillian from video and the scouting combine is that he’s a very physical player, a shutdown safety if there ever was one.  He plays the run well, but struggles with the pass.  McMillian rarely misses a tackle (music to Packer fans’ ears after the debacle of the 2011 unit) and is an effective blitzer.

Sound familiar?  While he may not be Pro Bowl-ready right out of the gate for the Packers, McMillian’s speed and physical play will fit in well on a Dom Capers-coached unit that prides itself on being aggressive and forcing turnovers.  He may not beat out Charlie Peprah or M.D. Jennings in training camp but Capers and his staff can take McMillian’s current skillset and mold him into a decent safety that can push Peprah or Jennings should either of them struggle.

This isn’t to say McMillian needs to be another Collins for his selection to be considered a success.  If Peprah can return to 2010 form after regressing in 2011 and Morgan Burnett continues to develop the pressure will be off McMillian and he can learn the NFL game at his pace.  The Packers desperately missed Collins in 2011, and Peprah and Burnett failed to fill the hole in the secondary.

Will the Packers try to mold McMillian in Collins’ image?  Given how large a role he played on the defense, McCarthy and Capers don’t seem to have much of a choice.  Collins was a hard hitting ball hawk and Peprah and Burnett definitely did not fit that kind of model.  The Packers need a playmaker at safety and if Charles Wood son is being rotated in and out of his cornerback position, the Packers need to have someone else ready.

Will that be McMillian or will it be veterans Peprah, Burnett or Jennings?

If McMillian’s selection just pushes Peprah, Burnett and Jennings harder and their level of play increases, then McMillian’s selection could already be viewed as a success especially if he develops into the player Thompson thinks he can become.   Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy both have said that have too many good players at one position is a good problem to have and with safety being a weak link on the defense in 2011, nothing would be a more pleasant surprise than to have the safeties go from one of thinnest spots on the roster to one of the deepest.

While he may be relegated to mainly special teams play for much of 2012, McMillian should still see that he can make an immediate impact on the roster.  As mentioned earlier, the success of Peprah, Burnett and Jennings is nowhere close to being a certainty.  The window could open earlier than expected for McMillian and he needs to be ready to go.

Packer Nation badly misses Collins but with luck and some shrewd drafting by Thompson, perhaps the next generation is already on the roster.


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for 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


11 thoughts on “Packers Rookie Jerron McMillian: Will Ted Thompson Strike Gold Again?

  1. “a shutdown safety if there ever was one”

    Where can one find these videos that warrant such acclaim.I’ve searched and the results have me wondering if he even went to the school.
    Any offerings would be appreciated,Thank you.

  2. Ok seriously Peprah,Burnett, Jennings… the lamest trio in football history. These three clowns wouldn’t make the practice squad on any other team in the NFL. The fact that we have to keep these losers is unsettling to me. There has to be better secondary players available somewhere. Hell I have seen highschool kids play harder than these clowns.

        1. are you a Bears or Vikings fan? Or are you just a non-affiliated troll? no more feeding.

        2. There may be a notable difference between Collins level of play and Peprahs. But I think Peprah, did a pretty good job. Look at at his number of tackles and interceptions from last year.

          Every body just keeps looking at the yardage given up by the defense, but if that really mattered why did the team go 15-1 and lead the leagues in turnover margin. I think that the old metrix does not tell the story of the new game. Yards mean nothing if you dont score and cant hold on to the ball.

  3. “Coach Speak” is always fun to use for speculation purposes. A full preseason will give all the candidates a full shot at the open spots. Until then, I will enjoy the information you provide.

    Thanks fo keeping us the most informed fns in the NFL.

  4. Big t, what team are you watching. I’ll give you peprah, but Burnett and Jennings? I thought burnetts play last year was damn good considering he spent most of the year in a cast. His run fill play especially was impressive, he was lowering the boom left and right. I still have in mind the play in preseason his first year where he ran most of the way across the field to intercept payton manning of all people.

    As for Jennings, he seems to have good range based on preseason, but I haven’t seen enough time of him against more than third stringers to say anything definate yet. Interesting he was on the active roster though. The coaching staff sure seems to like him.

    Over all, I think having peprah as a backup isn’t a bad option.

    1. Based solely on last year’s play, I can’t say that Burnett was anything better than average. Calling him “pedestrian” seems about right. I’d give Burnett a C-minus, at best.

      People may disagree with this, but in my opinion Peprah was not THAT MUCH worse than Burnett. (Yes, yes… he certainly was worse, but not by such a huge amount.) I’m not saying this to talk up Peprah – who is a liability – but to say that Burnett needs to pick up his game. He can. He also needs to.

      The difference between Peprah and Burnett is this: Peprah understands the game better, but has nowhere near the physical talent. Burnett is still learning the game, but can sometimes recover from his mistakes with his speed.

      As for MD Jennings, I’m as gung-ho for him as I can possibly be for a guy who never played a single snap from scrimmage in the NFL… even though the Packers may have had the poorest group of safeties in the league. Why does everyone seem so sure that he’s an improvement??

  5. I’m not excited about the safety position this year (unless Woodson is moved there). I think it will be the weakest position on the team. If the rest of the D improves , like I think they can, the safety position will be helped. I think with time, the younger guys will improve, but I don’t see a strong unit out of the gate. That being said, the D will be improved this year and the Pack has a great chance at another ring.

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