Welcome to the fourth annual best and worst case scenarios for every player on the Green Bay Packers roster.
I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition. Think Charles Woodson last year.
I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not what’s best for the team. For example, parting ways with Justin Harrell may eventually be what’s in the best interest of the Packers. I’m more interested in looking at what’s in Justin Harrell’s best interests (or worst interests for that matter).
Yesterday we looked at the cornerbacks. Today we’re onto the safeties…
- Best-case scenario: More of the same can be expected out of Collins when he had at least six interceptions the past two seasons and was among the league leaders in return yardage as well. He's been a Pro Bowler for two years running and that figures to continue as well. The veteran safety gets more consistent with age. He blows fewer assignments, has fewer less tackles, and only gambles when he knows he going to get his hands on the ball. Furthermore, his experience allows Dom Capers to get more creative in his play calling.
- Worst-case scenario: Now that Collins got his big payday, he gets complacent. The Collins of the past two seasons disappears. He seems prone to the mistakes that plagued him in the past, like getting beat deep over the top or missing a tackle that leads to a long gain. The interceptions dry up except for a handful. He's out on the field, but he's only visible when he does something wrong. That's not what you hope from a safety.
- Best-case scenario: Staying away from the offseason activities never seemed to affect Bigby. He came in for training camp in time and never missed a beat. In fact, the presence of Morgan Burnett has seemed to motivate him. Bigby never lets go of his hold on a starting position. He's in the starting lineup Week 1, and he goes on to have the most consistent year of his career, and injury free. He's not quite the next Troy Polamalu, but he carves his own little niche as a guy that's a hard hitter and doesn't get beat.
- Worst-case scenario: Bigby digs himself a hole from which he can't get out. Even though he begins as the starting strong safety, it's clear to every fan that attends training camp that Burnett has passed him up. Bigby gets into a funk, which gets him into the coach's doghouse, which leads to him getting benched and he can't regain his starting job. With Burnett taking over as the starter, Bigby will look for greener pastures next season.
- Best-case scenario: Burnett is a viable Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate when he wins over the starting spot opposite Nick Collins early in the regular season and never lets go. He shows the same penchant for intercepting passes that he did in college, but he's also able to play and tackle in the box as well. Being a player with multiple talents, he allows Dom Capers to be flexible in his play calling, which benefits the entire defense as a result.
- Worst-case scenario: Burnett shows promise, but like most rookies, he's not yet ready for prime time. He never can unseat Atari Bigby from the starting spot at strong safety, and really only plays as the dime back on defense. He does play a larger role on special teams, however. He's not considered a disappointment, he just needs more time to adjust to the NFL. Bigger and better things from Burnett are in store in the coming years.
- Best-case scenario: Martin is the best special teams player on the Packers, bar none. He leads the team in special teams tackles and manages to force a couple turnovers too. He provides depth at safety but rarely needs to play with three very good players in front of him. When playoff time comes, Martin is one of the special teams captains and could be on the field for the coin flip for the Super Bowl in 2011.
- Worst-case scenario: Martin makes the team, but never plays on defense. On special teams, he's just another guy. Good but not great. Being only a one-trick pony, his value is limited. Martin could be replaced by another safety in 2011 that shows more promise on defense.
- Best-case scenario: Will Blackmon makes the team as a fifth safety, but it's primarily his ability to return kicks and punts that wins him a roster spot. And he's just as good as ever despite coming off of injury. Blackmon is more explosive as a return man than any other player on the team, scores at least one touchdown and is among the league leaders in return average. On defense, he only plays when injury forces him into action but he's not bad on S.T. coverage units.
- Worst-case scenario: Coming of an ACL tear, Blackmon has lost a step. It turns out there's better options on the team at both the return specialist position and a third-string safety. With no compelling reason to keep Blackmon, the Packers cut him despite giving him every chance to win a roster spot throughout the course of August.
- Best-case scenario: If Will Blackmon isn't the same player he used to be, Peprah has a slim chance of making the 53-man roster. He does it through being a core player on special teams primarily. Any injury that occurs in front of him on the depth chart is beneficial to his chances. Peprah only plays sparingly on defense, but just making it on an NFL roster is good news.
- Worst-case scenario: Peprah is a training camp body, and there's no realistic chance for him to stick around. Despite having a prior knowledge of Dom Capers' defensive system, that's not enough play-making ability in his body to win a roster spot. He's cut when the Packers have to be down by 53-players in early September.
- Best-case scenario: Levine is the undrafted rookie that beats the odds and makes the 53-man roster. What he has working in his favor is that he's not strictly thought of as a special teams guy. While he can certainly play on special teams, he's actually a better option at safety than Derrick Martin, Will Blackmon and Charlie Peprah. That could be enough to incentive to actually keep him around.
- Worst-case scenario: You never even hear Levine's name mentioned during training camp. He's invisible during practice. When he plays during the preseason, he's lucky if he even makes a tackle. And with the same invisibility, he's quietly let go during roster cutdowns and no one seems to notice.
Check back tomorrow when we take a look at the specialists.