Friday, July 27, 2012

While Charlie Peprah Was Released, The Packers Demoted Sam Shields

One thing I got wrong when I wrote about the new alignment of the Green Bay Packers's secondary was that Sam Shields would still be the nickel back. Instead, M.D. Jennings played in the nickel defense. From Tyler Dunne:
Charles Woodson lined up at safety in the team's base alignment, a defense used 25% of the time last season. But in the team's nickel package -- which Dom Capers used much more often -- Woodson slid down into the slot and M.D. Jennings was with the No. 1 defense at safety. For now, Jarrett Bush ran with the starters at right cornerback.
Dunne opened his article with an earlier quote from Mike McCarthy, who said he doesn't talk about his players as a "starter" because it's all about how often his players are on the field. Just because they don't start the game on the field doesn't mean they won't be playing a lot.

So Woodson is the "starter" at safety, but he'll probably spend more time at cornerback. The coaches now think Bush is their 4th best defensive back, and Jennings is their No. 5. The loser here is Shields, who seemed to hold onto his nickel spot during the OTAs (of course, it seemed like Charlie Peprah was going to be the starter too), but now he'll have to play his way back onto the first team nickel defense.

The rookies aren't playing a role in this discussion, yet, but a lot can change over the course of a training camp. However, I'm not expecting much from Casey Hayward or Jerron McMillian. Though Shields himself came out of nowhere as a rookie in 2010 to become the nickel back, the Football Outsiders 2012 Almanac has a great discussion about Cowboys rookie CB Morris Claiborne, and why no one should expect great things from rookie defensive backs.

In the end, I don't see a big mistake being made. I'm no fan of Jarrett Bush, but Sam Shields played poorly last season. It's hard to make a strong case that another season from Charlie Peprah is better than giving M.D. Jennings a chance at safety. These might be marginal improvements, but they don't look like a big step back either, and Shields will still be given an opportunity to turn himself around.

The entire situation reminds me a little bit of the Baltimore Ravens, who seemingly run out a new set of starting cornerbacks every season while still having a strong pass defense. The changes in personnel don't seem to make a huge difference because their pass defense is keyed by a strong pass rush, and it might actually struggle for the first time in many seasons because of the likely absence of Terrell Suggs. On the other hand, the Packers made a big push to improve their woeful pass rush by the addition of Nick Perry. The combination of Bush and Jennings might appear to be a big improvement in 2012, if the pass rush is a lot better.


PackFaninFl said...

Great analysis! Best top to bottom analysis of the situation I've read thus far.

Remember how last year McCarthy shocked everyone by shifting Sherrod over to guard to challenge the "penciled in" starter TJ Lang? Brought out the best in Lang too!

McCarthy loves competition! And seeing the absence of Collins and now Peprah at safety, you couldn't just leave MD Jennings alone against the rook McMillan. I'm still not convinced that Chuck won't be out there playing corner before it's all said and done.

Nothing etched in stone yet, as you suggest.

Plus McCarty loves flexibility and having players see various positions along their line of defense. Which is why he has Lattimore and Brad Jones playing in and out as well. Just increases their value.

I think about six (!) starting positions are up for grabs till the crucial week 3 preseason game!

That's going to make for some incredible drama! Can't wait!

Oldresorter said...

Nice writing, fair and balanced so to speak. I like the spirit of competition the defensive backfield situation seems to be leading toward, which is very different than OLB where Perry is pretty much the guy unless he bombs, and even the DL, where Worthy will be given every opportunity. Also, it appears that AJ Hawk could commit a felony on tv and still be the starter, did the packers watch how much better the defense was with smith and francious back there - how about an open competition there. Sam Shields seems to be the fall guy for the Packers defensive backfield woes. I will not say I told you so when Bush gives up a dozen catches the first regular season game, after playing OK and getting praised for his tackling prowess all exhibition season. The writing on this one is on the wall. I wish I was fair and balanced like the author, but some of the choices made by the Packers on defense is simply maddening?

PackFaninFl said...

Brandon, I have a question about the Bishop vs Hawk comparison you made a few posts back. Is it possible that Bishop graded worse than Hawk on pass coverage because he was usually in on Dime/Nick situations and not Hawk? And didn't Bishop have more coverage responsibilities and they tried not to put Hawk in those kind of situations? I'm still baffled how Hawk is better than Bishop in pass coverage. Doesn't pass the ol' eye test....

Stroh said...

PackFaninFl... Its a statistical analysis, that means the number of times they were in coverage was accounted for. My guess is your bias is more the problem. Hawk was commedend for his coverage against Driver over on APC. He's looking like the '10 version of Hawk at the moment it seems.