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Even in the Darkest of Times, Burnett Continues to Improve with age

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Even in the Darkest of Times, Burnett Continues to Improve with age

If there was a glimmer of hope in the Packers' secondary right now, safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett would be illuminating.

Its radiance would be centered around Burnett, whom despite not even edging backup safety and nickel cornerback Micah Hyde in interceptions in 2016, has settled himself into a role that sees him as the undisputed leader of the Packers secondary. In that role, he's either led or came in second on the team in total tackles in every season that he's started more than 11 games.

Burnett has started 90 games for the Packers since being drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but missed 12 games during his rookie campaign due to an ACL tear.  His 90 starts match the number of games he's been registered as "active" for, meaning he has always been in the Packers' starting 11-man defense.

His ability to locate and halt a ball-carrier gives further perspective as to why defensive coordinator Dom Capers experimented with giving Burnett playing time in the front seven box as an inside linebacker. Burnett has demonstrated an innate skill that seems to elevate the play of fellow safety Kentrell Brice, an undrafted rookie defensive back who has more crushing hits in his limited playing time than he does starts under his belt.

It's players like Brice and Hyde who immediately reap the benefits from Burnett's transition into a hybrid linebacker and safety combo. Hyde, being deemed too undersized and slow to physically and efficiently cover the boundary receiver, isn't limited to being the team's nickel corner. In 2016, Hyde found opportunities to man down the back-end of the Packers secondary, helping him register three interceptions during the regular season — tied for second on the team.

Meanwhile, Brice has also seen scarce field time, even after the Packers released special teams maestro Chris Banjo at the beginning of the season. His coverage skills are less than desirable, however, his aforementioned tackling aptness brings grit and instinctive football to a defensive group whose biggest knock in the Capers era has been their inability to make the crushing halt.

The only game Burnett missed of the 19-game season the Packers played in 2016 was the home-opener against the Lions. However, he was knocked out of the Divisional round contest in Dallas with a quad injury, only to make the second effort to play the following week in Atlanta. 

Even with Burnett's physical capabilities at 27, now 28-years old, the Packers gave up their worst percentage of deep completions in 2016 with 45.05 percent. It was their worst since 2013 where opposing teams completed 43.33 percent of deep passes. It was a year to be forgotten for the secondary as a group, but consequently, Burnett and Clinton-Dix have solidified themselves as one of the top safety tandems in the NFL.

Burnett also signed a four-year contract extension in 2013, letting him continue his now seven-year in Green Bay at least through the 2017 season.  

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (5) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Since '61's picture

I think Burnett had a very solid season in 2016. There were times when he was out of position but I thought overall he played very well. Hopefully he remains healthy over the next several seasons. Thanks, Since '61

Tarynfor12's picture

It's best to look at Burnett like a bottle of good wine it is and nothing more.

stockholder's picture

I think Burnett and Ha Ha did a decent job. But that secondary still needs a miracle type player added to it. How many of you guys wouldn't want the Falcons draft from last year. Speed Guys. S, ILB. Te, OLB, someone got it and their in the super-bowl. Guys that have speed and hit like lbs or better. Young players that are very passionate. TT whats wrong with you? Your suppose to be wiser.

4thand1's picture

Its all about speed, they had it in Seattle and now in Atlanta. The NFL is a track meet, put a faster guy on a slower guy.

dobber's picture

It wasn't Atlanta's defense that got them to the SB. It just didn't keep them out.

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