So, we’re back from our ever-so-brief Easter sabbatical.
For the next week (and then some), we’ll be talking defense.
It’s crucial that the Green Bay Packers upgrade on this side of the ball. While the defense did many good things last season, the first in the new 3-4 scheme, it is still lacking in some facets. The Packers must find more depth at corner, safety and defensive line (as of now, they’re kind of screwed if something happens to one of their four key guys at that position). And while we at OBOD love Brad Jones’ potential, some think the Pack might want to find an outside linebacker with some more upside to pair with Clay Matthews.
The only area that clearly doesn’t need to be addressed is inside linebacker. Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop form a highly competent (and highly paid) quartet. As such, that will be the one position we will not discuss in our defensive series.
The first position we will address is cornerback. Again, the Packers are set at the top with Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. Al Harris, provided he can fully return from his massive knee injury, should be fine, as well. But long-term solutions must be found. Woodson and Harris aren’t getting any younger and, outside of Williams, the future is littered with question marks (Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood) and, well, Jarrett Bush (barf).
So, who are some players who could help make the future at corner a little clearer? Well, let’s take a look (and we’ll be back later today with some more corners, in case you were wondering).
- Kyle Wilson, Boise State
The numbers: 5-feet, 10-inches, 186 pounds…turns 23 years old in May…4.43 40-yard dash time at his pro day in March…first team All WAC and second team All American in 2009…42 tackles, three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and one sack in 2009…11 interceptions in his final three years at Boise State.
What he does that could work for the Packers: First thing’s first: This guy is a playmaker (look at his numbers). He’s also extremely multi-faceted in terms of what styles he can play as he’s good in both zone and man coverage (good because the Packers run both). His aggressive nature is complimented by excellent recovery skills. And he can close on the ball quickly, which would put him right at home in Green Bay’s secondary.
What he doesn’t do that could hurt the Packers: His height is not what you would call ideal, especially when you consider the Packers’ distaste in smaller corners. While confidence is indeed a good thing, Wilson tends to be overly so at times; in the NFL, that can lead to a lot of big gains surrendered, good recovery time or not. He’s also not overly fast.
Final thoughts: Wilson’s ability to play zone and man coverage puts him far ahead of the curve before he’s ever played an NFL down. And those playmaking skills – oh yeah, he also returned three punts for scores - would give Green Bay not just another dangerous corner, but another dangerous player in general. But I just can’t see the Packers going with someone that small as it would mark a major change in philosophy for them on defense. Still, if they find him too intriguing to pass up, he’ll be there at pick No. 23.
- Devin McCourty, Rutgers
The numbers: 5-feet, 11-inches, 190 pounds…turns 23 years old in August…4.38 40-yard dash time at the combine…first team All Big East in 2009…74 tackles, one interception and 10 passes defended in 2009…six interceptions for his career at Rutgers.
What he does that could work for the Packers: McCourty compliments his elite speed with solid fundamentals. His footwork is very good, as is his ability to turn his hips and run with receivers. Like Wilson, he’s got excellent recovery skills. He obviously knows how to tackle, something Green Bay’s defense needs more of across the board. To use a baseball term, McCourty’s a good clubhouse guy. He’s a hard worker who assumed a leadership role for Rutgers.
What he doesn’t do that could hurt the Packers: The fact that he only had one pick last season leaves something to be desired in the playmaking department. His natural ball skills are not completely developed yet, either. He’s had his share of struggles matching up with bigger wideouts – not good when you consider that receivers seem to get bigger each and every year in the NFL.
Final thoughts: When you look at McCourty, the phrase “solid, if not spectacular” comes to mind. He’s got all the basics down pat, but there’s likely another gear he’ll never hit. Still, even if he’s lacking major upside, his ability to tackle and avoid being overly aggressive could make him a solid second round pick for Green Bay – if he’s still on the board, that is.
- Patrick Robinson, Florida State
The numbers: 5-feet, 11-inches, 193 pounds…turns 23 years old in September…4.46 40-yard dash time at the combine (improved it to 4.40 at his pro day in March)…second team All ACC in 2009…46 tackles, no interceptions, 10 passes defended in 2009…seven interceptions over his final three years at Florida State.
What he does that could work for the Packers: Think of all the raw skills a corner can have. Well, Robinson pretty much has them all. He’s fast and strong, with excellent footwork and leaping ability. His quick hips allow him to run with receivers and, even if he’s beat initially, he’s more than able to recover. He’s got solid ball skills and brings a nasty demeanor with him in press coverage (his specialty).
What he doesn’t do that could hurt the Packers: His production leaves something to be desired, as he was more than inconsistent in college (six picks as a sophomore in 2007, but just one after that). His package of skills sometimes causes him to be too confident in himself, which has led to numerous big plays allowed. While his ball skills are solid, his overall awareness lacks at times and must be improved.
Final thoughts: Anyone who’s drafting Robinson is doing so in the hopes that they can get him to fully reach his potential. If they can, they could end up with a top-flight corner. If they can’t, he could be a bust of Ahmad Carroll-like proportions. In other words, he’s the exact opposite of McCourty. Also, yes, Robinson’s good in man coverage, but how does that play on a defense that runs a mix of both? He’s likely a second round pick and while his upside is intriguing, his potential downside should keep the Packers away.
Again, we’ll be back later today with some more of the top corners.