Thursday, January 10, 2013

How The Secondary Looks With Charles Woodson Back

Last week, I was wondering who would lose playing time in the Packers' secondary once CB/S Charles Woodson returned from injury. It looks like the rookie, S Jerron McMillian, was the odd man out:
I've been impressed with McMillian, who was a relative unknown when the Packers selected him out of Maine in the 4th round. He's adapted quickly to the speed of the NFL in his first season. But I'd be hard pressed to make the case that right now he deserves to play ahead of Woodson.

Based on snap counts, via Football Outsiders, McMillian has been one of their biggest contributors this season:

Player Total Snaps Def Snap Pct
Burnett 1159 100%
Williams 1076 99%
Hayward 815 63%
Jennings 767 52%
McMillian 765 54%
Shields 681 54%
Woodson 467 43%
Bush 430 8%
House 390 28%
Richardson 110 1%
CB Jarrett Bush looks like a typo, however, his overall snap counts are high because he plays so much on special teams. The same goes for rookie S Sean Richardson until he was placed on I.R. Interestingly, Richardson's injury opened a roster spot for both RB DeJuan Harris and WR Jeremy Ross to be elevated from the practice squad and they've made a bigger impact over the last month and a half than Richardson made all season.

If it seems like S Morgan Burnett never comes off the field, it's because he doesn't. The same is almost true for CB Tramon Williams. Overall, looking at the top five defensive backs in terms of playing time, there's a lot of youth on that list. Burnett would be the youngest starter in a lot of teams' secondary, but CB Casey Hayward and S M.D. Jennings (along with McMillian) entered the 2012 season with almost zero NFL experience. It's impressive that the unit has held up so well despite so much inexperience.

As I said at the top of the post, there's almost no case to be made that McMillian should remain ahead of Woodson on the depth chart, but looking at the snap counts, I was surprised how important McMillian has been to the defense this season.

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