Thursday, June 06, 2013

Is Tramon Williams A No. 1 Cornerback?

Cornerback can be a hard position to evaluate because it's not always clear what's being asked of him. What type of coverage did the defense call? Was he supposed to be in man or was it a zone coverage? Did another teammate miss an assignment? Was he supposed to play off and that's why he's allowing so many short receptions? Also, some corners inflate their interception totals by taking too many chances. Those INTs are usually what decides a trip to the Pro Bowl, but it's not the way to decide which cornerback is the best.

CB Tramon Williams, after Charles Woodson moved to safety, has become their No. 1 cornerback. He had a fantastic run with three INTs in the 2010 playoff. But over the past two seasons he's only had six in total and his recorded pass defenses fell from 22 in 2011 to 16 in 2012. Part of the problem has been that he's drawn more difficult assignments. Also, he hurt his shoulder in Week 1 of the 2011 season and it's been bothering him ever since, though it looked like it was less of a problem last season. It hasn't helped him that the Packers' high powered offense has often forced opponents to throw a lot more to try and keep pace.

Cornerbacks' coach Joe Whitt Jr. has heard the criticisms of Williams and he doesn't agree with it. More interestingly, after two seasons of asking Williams to press in coverage, Whitt hopes to give more him more opportunities to play off and make big plays. From Jason Wilde at ESPN Wisconsin:
If you go back to 2010, most of his impact plays came from being off. This year, my whole mantra, and I told (defensive coordinator) Dom (Capers), I know we want to press because if you look at our completion percentage, they don’t complete a lot of balls on us. Now, we still gave up too many explosives but they don’t complete a lot of balls on us. We might give up a little more completions, but I’m going to allow them to do what they do, so you might see Tramon and Casey (Hayward) play off. But I have a feeling he’s going to make more of those splash plays .
After a disastrous 2011 season, the pass defense bounced back to No. 7 overall according to Football Outsiders. The emergence of rookie CB Casey Hayward played a big role in that improvement, but Williams's presence as the No. 1 CB helped take some pressure off Hayward too. Over the past three seasons, the Packers have gone from 24 INTs as a team in 2010, to 31 in 2011, to 18 in 2012. Interceptions don't relate directly to great defense, the Packers pass defense was horrible in 2011, but they can completely change the direction of a game.

In 2010, their ball hawking secondary played a huge role during their Super Bowl run. While interceptions aren't everything for a pass defense, a secondary that make "more of those splash plays" might be what the team has been missing in the playoffs over the past two seasons.

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