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Morgan Burnett at Tampa Bay: LeRoy Butleresque

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Morgan Burnett at Tampa Bay: LeRoy Butleresque

Packers safety Morgan Burnett tackles Buccaneers running back Charles Sims by David Manning—USA TODAY Sports.

Packers safety Morgan Burnett tackles Buccaneers running back Charles Sims by David Manning—USA TODAY Sports.

Even though he isn’t playing at an elite level yet, there is no doubt that Morgan Burnett has improved in 2014 after a bad 2013 season. When you study Burnett, it seems like he is more comfortable when playing in the box. This was particularly evident in Tampa Bay on Sunday, as Burnett had one of his best games as a Packer. He was doing things that LeRoy Butler used to do. He had many big tackles and was credited with a half sack that came on a safety blitz.

Let’s go to the tape of the Tampa Bay game and analyze a few of Burnett’s impact plays.

The first play that we will look at is a nickel safety blitz that Dom Capers calls in most games. Sometimes, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the blitzer, but this time Burnett (red arrow) was the one blitzing off the edge. This is a five-man pressure with the defensive line/outside linebackers slanting away from the side Burnett is blitzing, with Cover 3 behind it. On this occasion, Burnett had to beat the right tackle, and he did so with a quick inside move to get to the quarterback. As a blitzing defensive back, Burnett knew that he couldn’t beat the right tackle with power, so he won with quickness. The tackle didn’t have much of a chance to get his hands on Burnett:

The next play to examine is Burnett’s tackle for loss when he was the “buzz”/hook-zone defender in “Cover 3 Buzz” in the nickel. This coverage is easy to disguise, and it’s a great way to get an extra defender in the box to stop the run because it’s difficult for the offense to account for the “buzz” defender. As the “buzz” defender versus the pass, Burnett has a hook zone, but versus the run, he essentially comes down to fill the A-gap (between the center and guard).

On this play, the Buccaneers ran a draw play with No. 88 as the lead blocker. As the play started to develop, Burnett quickly diagnosed it and aggressively filled the A-gap. As he did that, he strategically avoided the lead blocker and made a perfect tackle in the backfield:

This isn’t the only time Burnett has done this out of “Cover 3 Buzz” in the nickel. He also performed this same duty at times against the Eagles, and on this play, he made the tackle on LeSean McCoy:

Another Burnett play to analyze occurred on second-and-2. Again, the Packers were in nickel, and it looked like they were playing Cover 1 (man underneath with a single-high safety). This means that Burnett (red) was the extra (seventh) defender in the box, and it looked like he had No. 88 (who lined up at fullback) in man coverage.

In this scenario, Burnett was responsible for the B-gap (between the guard and tackle) against the run. As the play developed, Burnett recognized it and filled the B-gap quickly and made a violent effort to stop the running back for no gain. As you can see, the defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage on this play, and the run fits were good (especially by Burnett). This may seem like a routine play, but there probably aren’t many safeties who can make this play on a consistent basis.

The final play that we will look at is Burnett’s crucial tackle when the Buccaneers were backed up. On this play, Capers employed his 3-4 base defense and called a single-high coverage, but he used three safeties (Sean Richardson, No. 28, was the third safety). The Packers were expecting a run.

When the play began, Mike Daniels (who made a great effort to disrupt the play) and Richardson were washed down inside, and Clay Matthews got very wide and was a non-factor. This resulted in a massive, open running lane, and the running back had the presence of mind to cut back in to that open area. This left Burnett (red circle), essentially the last line of defense, one-on-one with the running back. Even though these circumstances didn’t favor Burnett, he stepped up, broke down under control, and made a beautiful open-field tackle for no gain.

Burnett’s physical presence and instincts in this game were special. The nickel package becomes more physical if he can contribute like this on a consistent basis. This type of performance by Burnett would come in handy the rest of the way for the Packers.

Thanks for reading, Packers fans. Follow me on Twitter at @RobertOlson92 for daily analysis on the Packers.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (14) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Allan Murphy's picture

He's every were omg .

Allan Murphy's picture

He must be watching my guy TP .

jeremyjjbrown's picture

This is awesome!

Robert - do you think the Packers offense is going to see a lot of 2-man again against the Lions? If so do you think McCarthy will open up the playbook to defeat it this time, or will he again be rigid?

robertolson's picture

Great question. I think the Lions will play a lot of 2-deep coverages (including Cover 2 Man) and force the Packers to have consistent success in the running game. In the first meeting, the Packers didn't run well at all when the Lions had two safeties back. The Packers can't let that happen this time. In order to prevent the mismatch of a defensive end vs. a tight end in the running game, I think McCarthy could use "20 personnel" (2 RB, 0 TE, 3 WR) with Kuhn and Lacy in the backfield to run the ball. The Packers had a lot of success on the ground at Buffalo when they used that personnel grouping.

RCPackerFan's picture

Robert, I have brought this up to you on Twitter, but it seems like Lacy is running at his best with Kuhn lead blocking for him. Most of Lacy's biggest runs the last 3-4 games have came when Kuhn is blocking for him.
I like it when McCarthy uses multiple personnel and formations much like they did against New England. But moving forward I wouldn't mind seeing them using their 20 personnel as their primary formation.

DrealynWilliams's picture

If it continues to work - great.

We know the Pack loves the Hurry Up/No Huddle (which you can't do with 2 backs in the game).

If there was a way to find the perfect balance. Hmmm....

DrealynWilliams's picture

Sorry. You can run it, but I don't think it would be as effective as having a TE in the backfield. You're taking away a potential threat.

If Quarless/Rodgers could block like Kuhn there's no way Kuhn would be seeing as many snaps as he's been seeing these last few games.

With a TE in the backfield: successful run - you can then split that TE out wide, put him in the slot or put him inline in hurry up/no huddle.

With a FB in the backfield: successful run - you pretty much have to keep that FB in the backfield in hurry up/no huddle.


DrealynWilliams's picture

"The way I see it is Rodgers isn't going to have time to go thru his progressions much anyway. Keeping an extra RB in the game could mean better protection as well as an outlet for Rodgers."

The O-Line pass pro this season has been awesome. Not worried about getting extra time - especially if it means taking away a receiving threat.

"None of the TE are even close to Kuhn from a blocking/protection perspective for either Lacy or Rodgers."

I never argued against that. I agree.

"I think against teams like Det and Sea, it might be beneficial to have Kuhn on the field more than a TE."

Teams with damn good run defense must be spread out by the Pack to have a good running day. Power running is not our strong suit. I'm assuming that's why we see sooooo many Shotgun down in the Red Zone.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Rodgers has a roll to play with line calls, but that is not nearly as significant to this problem as formation and personnel. McCarthy calls in the personnel groupings and formations. If the Packers get the 2-man look again (the Lions would crazy not to) and McCarthy just keeps on sending out 11 personel spread wide the same thing is probably going to happen.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Yes, Rodgers can change the play at the line of scrimmage, and not infrequently does so. But make no mistake, if MM does not like the changes, it is up to MM to rein in his future HOF QB, like Holmgren reined in Favre. If he can't, that is a reflection on MM. If he won't because he agrees with the changes made by Rodgers, that's another issue.

PackerAaron's picture

Perfect post, Thegreatreynoldo.

4thand1's picture

Ok , where's the prediction aaron, everyone is giving this game to the Packers.. The ESPN experts all picked the Pack, everyone of them. I've had the Packers winning this game for while also. Pack by 10 or more.

4thand1's picture

Well Vegas has confidence in the Pack, favored by 7.5

Amanofthenorth's picture

Burnett is all of 25

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