Thursday, July 10, 2014

The New Look 2014 Packers Secondary

It's hard to be bullish on the Packers' secondary after a poor 2013 season, but they could be the best group on defense in 2014.
Mike Spofford is expecting that when the Packers go with six defensive backs (which happens quite often) it will be CBs Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, with Safeties Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. It would be a surprise to see anything else. It's a new look because while five of the six are returning players, Hayward barely played at all in 2013 while Hyde is expected to take on a different role at safety. Even Burnett might have some different responsibilities depending on how they utilize Hyde.

By itself, the addition of Clinton-Dix is a big improvement, but the addition by subtraction of the two worst offenders last season in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus (M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian) is just as important. The only two players returning who had a negative pass coverage grade in 2013 were Burnett, who's now healthy and should improve playing alongside someone other than Jennings, and Davon House, who's got to prove he belongs after a bad finish in 2013. Even if it doesn't work out with House, finding a better fourth CB during the preseason shouldn't be a tall order.

Coming into the 2013 season, Williams was still struggling with a 2011 shoulder injury, but his old aggressive self re-emerged last November and he ended the season with four INTs over his final eight games. Except for a disappointing 2011 season, Shields has been one of their best in coverage over his first four seasons, and his big contract extension looks reasonable now after a crazy year in free agency. Hayward's absence last season (he only played parts of three games) was a big loss and he appears to be completely healthy again. Those three should be the best group of corners since 2010 when Williams, Shields and Charles Woodson were playing together.

I can see the silver lining on this unit, but they're going to have to prove it on the field.

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