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Packers Question of the Day - Morgan Burnett as a Nickel Linebacker; Good Move or bad Move?

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Packers Question of the Day - Morgan Burnett as a Nickel Linebacker; Good Move or bad Move?

Even if it was just in a few practice sessions through last week's duration of training camp, the expanded role for the Packers' veteran safety Morgan Burnett is an intriguing one.

The defensive coordinator and mastermind of the Green Bay defense has been implementing Burnett into a new position in the nickel scheme - a linebacker.

Over the last couple of years, we've seen more defensive backs evolve into this role such as Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu, both with the Arizona Cardinals. A small sampling size of Burnett's versatility, but something that Capers may just experiment with through the course of training camp and the preseason. 

Will this throw off Burnett's mechanics as a pure safety or will this ultimately help him in his future endeavours with the team? Is it an experiment that might just pay off for the defensive side of the ball? Comment your thoughts on Burnett's hybrid role below.

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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 (28) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Since '61's picture

Burnett has enough NFL experience by now that he should be able to handle this role. Also, this would only apply to certain downs and distance situations. In the worst case the experiment can be scrubbed if it doesn't work out. It's always good to have something extra for opposing OCs to be concerned about. Thanks, Since '61

L's picture

I like it because it should provide the Packers with the ability to put more quality coverage players onto the field in specific situations and against particular match-ups when warranted.

dobber's picture

The question is: who is coming onto the field and who is not when Burnett plays this role?

J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

Hyde's been taking Burnett's spot, not sure who Burnett's kicking off the field, though.

RCPackerFan's picture

I'm just really curious how they would line up players with Burnett playing the LB role. Do they take out an ILB and add another Safety? Do they keep 2 ILB's and just move Burnett up?

EdsLaces's picture

Right? If it puts Banjo on the field I can't say I'm excited. Now Gunter on the other hand...

RCPackerFan's picture

Thats just it. They would likely go with Hyde over Banjo, but that is why i can't get to excited about it. Until i see how they use the players around him, I will take the wait and see approach.

I do like the idea of getting more athleticism on the the field, just not sure how they are going to do it.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah, see I'm wondering if they would basically be doing a Nickel/DIme type of defense with Burnett playing ILB. Either they would bring in an extra S or extra CB.
For example doing 2 DL, 2 OLB, 1 ILB, 1 Hybrid, and 3 CB, 2 S
Or another is 2 DL, 2 OLB, 1 ILB, 1 Hybrid, 4 CB, 1 S.

Or what if they used him in some base situations? Moving him up into the box to create a bigger front. Turning it essentially into a 3-5-3 defense?

I'm just curious how they would use Burnett at ILB and who they would use with him playing there.

L's picture

I imagine we might possibly see the Hybrid Safety Backer position used in these formations...

*4-3 - Burnett dropping down into the Box as an extra Linebacker will turn it into a type of 4-4 Defense with single Safety coverage.

4 D-linemen: 1 Nose Tackle (likely Guion, Pennel, or Clark), 1 Defensive Tackle (likely Daniels, Clark, or Pennel), 1 Defensive End (likely Jones, Clark, Pennel, Ringo, or Lowry), 1 Elephant Hybrid End/Backer (likely Peppers, Perry, or Jones)

3 Linebackers: 1 SAM OLB (likley Matthews, Perry, Fackrell, or McCray), 1 MIKE ILB (likely Barrington, Martinez, Ryan or Matthews), 1 WILL ILB (likely Martinez or Ryan)

2 Safeties: 1 Hybrid Strong Safety Linebacker (Burnett), 1 Free Safety (likely Clinton-Dix or Hyde)

2 Cornerbacks: Left Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins), Right Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins)

*3-4 - Burnett dropping down into the Box as an extra Linebacker will turn it into a type of 3-5 Defense with single Safety coverage.

3 D-linemen: 1 Nose Tackle (likely Guion, Clark, or Pennel), 2 Defensive Ends (likely Daniels, Clark, Jones, Pennel, Ringo, or Lowry)

4 Linebackers: 1 JACK OLB (likely Matthews, Peppers, Perry, McCray, or Elloitt), 1 SAM OLB (likley Perry, Matthews, Fackrell, or McCray), 1 MIKE ILB (likely Barrington, Martinez, Ryan or Matthews), 1 WILL ILB (likely Martinez or Ryan)

2 Safeties: 1 Hybrid Strong Safety Linebacker (Burnett), 1 Free Safety (likely Clinton-Dix or Hyde)

2 Cornerbacks: Left Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins), Right Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins)

*2-4 (Nickel) - Burnett playing as the WILL linebacker provides better coverage capabilities to that position and doesn't force the defense to go with single Safety coverage.

2 D-linemen: 2 Defensive Tackles (likely Daniels, Guion, Clark, or Pennel)

4 Linebackers: 1 JACK OLB (likely Peppers, Perry, or Jones), 1 SAM OLB (likley Matthews, Fackrell, or McCray), 1 MIKE ILB (likely Barrington, Martinez, Ryan or Matthews), 1 WILL Hybrid Safety Linebacker (Burnett)

2 Safeties: 1 Strong Safety (Likely Hyde), 1 Free Safety (likely Clinton-Dix)

3 Cornerbacks: Nickel/Slot Corner (likely Randall or Rollins), Left Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins), Right Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins)

*3-3 (Nickel) - Should allow the defense to better disguise where it'll bring pressure from; though, Burnett will be dropping down into the Box from the Safety position in this formation which should create a type of 3-4 defense with single Safety coverage and a slot corner.

3 D-linemen: 1 Nose Tackle (likely Guion, Clark or Pennel), 2 Defensive Ends (likely Daniels, Clark, Pennel, Jones, or Pepper)

3 Linebackers: 1 SAM OLB (likley Matthews, Perry, Fackrell, or McCray), 1 MIKE ILB (likely Barrington, Martinez, Ryan or Matthews), 1 WILL (likely Martinez or Ryan)

2 Safeties: 1 Hybrid Strong Safety Linebacker (Burnett), 1 Free Safety (likely Clinton-Dix or Hyde)

3 Cornerbacks: Nickel/Slot Corner (likely Hyde, Randall, or Rollins), Left Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins), Right Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins)

*4-2 (Nickel) - I could see the team running this defense from a type of Dime front when Burnett simply shifts down into the Box altering the formation into a 4-2 Nickel from the Dime by taking the actual role of the WILL linebacker and leaving Hyde as the Strong Safety; plus, vise versa.

4 D-linemen: 1 Nose Tackle (likely Guion, Clark, or Pennel), 1 Defensive Tackle (likely Daniels, Clark, or Pennel), 1 Strong Defensive End (likely Jones, Clark, Pennel, Ringo, or Lowry), 1 Elephant Hybrid End/Backer (likely Peppers, Perry, or Jones)

2 Linebackers: 1 MIKE ILB (likley Matthews, Barrington, Martinez, or Ryan), 1 WILL ILB (likely Martinez, Matthews, or Burnett as a hybrid),

2 Safeties: 1 Strong Safety (likely Burnett or Hyde if Burnett becomes a hybrid Linebacker), 1 Free Safety (likely Clinton-Dix or Hyde)

3 Cornerbacks: Nickel/Slot Corner (likely Hyde, Randall, or Rollins), Left Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins), Right Outside Corner (likely Shields, Randall, or Rollins)

L's picture

Agreed. I almost didn't include those in my response because of that very reason, but figured I'd list all the occasions we might potentially see Burnett playing in a hybrid linebacker type role.

I do think that the most likely new defensive addition will be the ability to have the defense audible between some Dime and Nickel fronts just before the snap of the ball depending on what the defense sees from an offense.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Hyde is comming in at the other safety spot.

RCPackerFan's picture

Or are they going to bring Gunter in and go with 1 less safety?

jeremyjjbrown's picture

It was 1 more safety of you count Burnett as a safety in this case which was seen in practice and talked about on one of the radio shows.

Although what you describe might be a viable option too in something like a cover 3, but I would expect Rollins to be the 3rd cb.

EdsLaces's picture

Kinda forgot about Hyde ....that might work pretty well really. Rollins prolly would too.

RCPackerFan's picture

Ok, I haven't heard how they were using it. I just heard they were having him playing some ILB.

LeagueObsrvr's picture

That's what makes this so intriguing. With the additions of Randall and Rollins last year and LB Blake Martinez this season, and adding Ladarius Gunter to the mix, Capers now has the type of personnel to allow him a lot of scheme flexibility. With Randall's pedigree of playing both corner and safety going back to his college days, I wouldn't be surprised to see Randall lined up at safety on some plays when Burnett is shifted to LB.

Nick Perry's picture

^^^^^ This by LeagueObsrvr^^^^^^

croatpackfan's picture

Maybe that is the reason why Randall and Rollins were playing inside that much in TC. They might consider Randall as Slot CB/Safety with Morgan near the line?

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Maybe the Packers should move to the 0-11-0 defense with only linebackers. All current defensive linemen should become quicker by cutting down to 280 pounds and all backs should bulk up it at least 215.

Kidding obviously...

J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

Burnett's been playing well in the box lately, imo. He isn't exactly taking on linemen when he comes in the box to clog a running lane out of the SS spot. He may have to take on a lineman starting out in the second level this year if this is run during a real game. I think he's 225-ish.

RCPackerFan's picture

I agree with that. Since Clinton-Dix took over the center field of the defense last year, Burnett really has played well down in the box.

Handsback's picture

Really isn't this just copying what they did w/ Woodson? I know he had plenty of sacks while with the Packers so I see this as an extention of what they did by putting Woodson in the box.

Nick Perry's picture

Nice.... If true the Packers are going to have ONE HELL of a secondary. If Randell and Rollins are even in the same Zip Code as Wood I'm buying SB tickets now.

And WHY would anybody give a "Thumbs Down" to THAT comment??? That's a hell of a compliment to Randell and Rollins.

EdsLaces's picture

I do feel kinda like every team is trying to find their own D Buchannon and don't realize that he's a freaking monster.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I'm 50/50 on it.

Why I don't like it (yet): Even though he's a sure-tackler I don't think he's capable of making much of an impact. Smells like another experiment because the ILB group is so-so. Maybe I'm just not as high on Burnett as some. If this was HHCD, I'd like it. Hopefully I'm wrong though.

Why I (might) like it: Dom is trusting HHCD and the rest of the DBs to do their jobs with less help. This might lead to a lot more Single High Safety which should better the run support when only having 2 DLs and/or sure up RB/TE coverage.

stockholder's picture

I agree but I think it has more to do with Thomas. They need more speed and coverage ability than Thomas. Just a good give it a try anyway.

Michael Grunewald's picture

To me, this would be a great move. Burnett's strength is downhill run support. I have never been fond of his cover skills or angles he takes in pursuit.

marpag1's picture

Meh. Is it the pass that the Packers have had trouble defending? Don't think so (6th vs. the pass, 21st vs the run, 29th in yards per rush).

What the Packers need is a real ILB who can play run or pass, and I don't really have any reason to believe that Burnett is the guy. To me, this move is more of a concession that the Packers aren't comfortable that they have a cover linebacker, unless Martinez can get up to speed in an awful hurry.

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