Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Position Review: Safety

This position has been constantly changing since Nick Collins and Atari Bigby were the starters from 2007 through 2009. Even then, there was a parade of different strong safeties (Aaron Rouse, Derrick Martin, Jarrett Bush) who filled in for all the times that Bigby was injured. Collins's 2011 career ending neck injury forced another change, but now the position seems settled for the near future.

Position Reviews (Defense): Inside LinebackerDefensive Line, Outside Linebacker
Position Reviews: Offense

Morgan Burnett. He's still got some room to grow, but at age 24 he's just entering his prime and it can take safeties a little longer to develop. Collins didn't become a Pro Bowl performer until his fourth season, which is the same point that Burnett will be at in 2013. A break out season won't cause any salary cap troubles either because he just signed a five-year extension.

M.D. Jennings. The Packers employ an unusual safety rotation in which he's the starter but he's not always on the field (unlike Burnett). He'll be the deep coverage safety, and while it would seem that he should be in a battle for the starting job, he's not because McMillian plays a different role on defense.

Jerron McMillian. The unknown college safety from Maine did so well as Charles Woodson's replacement that Woodson was released. He might never be as good as Woodson, but he should be better than him over the next few years (assuming Woodson keeps playing that long). He'll be asked to play like a pseudo linebacker, looking to help out in run support and in coverage against the slot receiver.

While Burnett will never leave the field, both Jennings and McMillian will come off at times, and sometimes they'll play together. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers isn't afraid to shake up the rotation depending on the opponent. I'm not sure I'm expecting great things from them, but they're going to be a solid unit.

The Packers should expect to keep at least one more safety on the roster but there isn't an obvious candidate. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the cornerbacks was asked to play at both positions this season.

Sean Richardson. The formerly undrafted free agent was a surprise addition to the 2012 roster, but his NFL future is in doubt after offseason neck surgery. I expect he'll be released soon.

David Fulton, Chaz Powell, Chris Banjo. A collection of undrafted players; Fulton in 2013, Powell and Banjo in 2012. Banjo was signed this week after Richardson's prognostic looked bleak. Which one of the three players might emerge as a keeper is anyone's guess. Powell probably has a slight lead because he was actually invited to the NFL combine after finishing college at Penn State and he ended last season on the Packers's practice squad.

Depth at safety has been a concern of mine for the past few years, especially with all the injuries, but the top three safeties appear set for the first time in years. The depth behind them is still an issue, but they should find someone worthy among the collection of young players at corner and safety.

No comments: