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Safeties Attempt to Fill Void Left by Collins

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Safeties Attempt to Fill Void Left by Collins

Replacing Nick Collins will be no small task if you're to believe Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.

The veteran Packers safety was lost for the season after injuring his neck in Sunday's win over the Carolina Panthers and will be placed on injured reserve.

"Nick's a heck of a football player," said McCarthy in his Monday press conference. "He's a true team guy. To see number 36 flying around out there since the whole time I've been here in Green Bay, he does so many little things. You look at the first half of his career, he's on pace to potentially have a Hall of Fame career here."

Collins is also a three-time Pro Bowler, and the task of replacing his production will fall on the shoulders of Charlie Peprah, who McCarthy has already anointed as the new starter.

Peprah has plenty of experience as an injury replacement after substituting for Morgan Burnett following his injury-shortened season a year ago.

On Monday, Peprah was left just trying to digest the news that his fellow position mate will be lost for the remainder of 2011 with such a serious and perhaps even career-threatening injury, though that remains to be seen.

"It's really an unfortunate situation," Peprah told the media on Monday. "You never want to assume this role with that type of injury. I just first and foremost hope that he's going to be okay."

Peprah was a God-send for the Packers a year ago when Burnett went down. As a free agent signed before the start of 2010, Peprah started 11 regular season games and two more in the playoffs as he brought stability to a position ravaged by injury.

Despite being a five-year veteran, 2010 was the first time Peprah received extensive playing time on defense. It didn't take much for him to set career highs in tackles (64), interceptions (two) and passes defensed (seven).

He didn't provide a ton of eye-popping, game-changing plays, but Peprah provided a steadying influence to the secondary, was a solid tackler in the box, and was a key contributor to a Super Bowl winning team.

For all that he was able to accomplish last season, Peprah knows it's not going to be easy to take the place of Collins as a member of one of the deepest secondaries in the NFL.

"It's an unfortunate deal," said Peprah, "but we just have to pick up right where he left off. I have big shoes to fill. Hopefully my teammates have confidence in me, and the coaches do too."

It's doubtful Peprah will be able to put up the same numbers as Collins, who's had 21 career interceptions returned for 507 yards and four touchdowns, but he won't be expected to, either.

As long as Peprah does the same thing he did a season ago, offer a consistent performance in the face of adversity, he'll likely be a suitable stand-in for Collins.

"Charlie is a very smart player," said Burnett. "He's a veteran player and you don't have any worries about Charlie. I'll be asking him questions the way I did Nick."

While Burnett is already a starting member of the defensive backfield, he'll be looked at to provide some of the slack left by Collins as well.

Given Peprah's physical limitations, namely speed and range, Burnett––perhaps––could provide the big-play ability that Collins possessed.

As a third-round draft choice out of Georgia Tech last year, many thought the Packers would be getting the ballhawk they saw in college.

Burnett's development was slowed by the knee injury that ended his season last year, but since that time, he's shown flashes of what could be exciting things to come.

On Sunday, after getting beat in coverage a couple times by Panthers receivers, Burnett helped make up for it by picking off an overthrown Cam Newton pass and forcing a fumble on wideout Steve Smith.

"It's going to be a challenge, because with Nick's leadership and his big-play ability, those are big shoes to fill," said Burnett. "We just got to go in there and push and work hard and do it for Nick."

The Packers are used to overcoming injury. They had 15 players go on injured reserve on their way to winning the league championship in February.

It took a small army of players to make up for the numerous losses, and the rest of the safeties very likely learned a lesson along the way.

It might be tough to replace Collins with just one player, but Peprah and Burnett––as a committee––will be charged with such a task.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackersRS's picture

"Given Peprah's physical limitations, namely speed and range, Burnett––perhaps––could provide the big-play ability that Collins possessed."

That's exactly what I think is going to and should happen.

I'm not 100% sure Burnett can step in seaminglesly. Speed and range do not necessarily translates to good deep coverage, but with the number of ints he had in college, I can at least assume the playmaking ability is in there.

This is a bad timing, though. The bears' OL is a mess, now it's the best time to throw the kitchen at them. But with this transition, I'm afraid Capers might be a bit more conservative and call more cover 3 than what the situation normally would call for.

FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

Your last paragraph, I was thinking the exact same thing.

maxginsberg's picture

Isn't Anthony Levine still out there? He would seem like a logical pick up...

Brian Carriveau's picture

I've wondered that myself. I want to know if he was given an injury settlement when he was cut. If he was given a settlement, he is prevented from being re-signed by the team that cut him for a certain number of weeks, usually in the neighborhood of six, if I'm correct.

nerdmann's picture

Where's Anthony Smith playing these days?

Brian Carriveau's picture

For the Titans.

Tommyboy's picture

And they can by all means keep him.

thedon's picture

rumors are already swirling about signing sharper, but he seems like a worse choice than peprah (38 special)'s picture

Obviously a huge blow to our defense, but I foresee the return of Tramon as the stabilizer to this situation. Once we solidify our corners, Woodson will once again have free reign which helps everybody. Nick Collins is a beast and hands down will be missed greatly. Get Healthy!

Nerdmann's picture

Do we know for a fact that Tramon will be back? Has he practiced at all?

packeraaron's picture

We'll know tomorrow what his chances are. If he's back at practice and he responds well the next day, its a good bet he plays. If he sits tomorrow and Thursday, I doubt he plays.

J's picture

Things will be fine. As hard as it may be to think about right now--the pass rush is much a more a troubling issue. The safeties will be fine.

Jordan's picture

It sure seems like teams are game planning to exploit Hawk in coverage. Losing Collins only compounds the difficulty in making adjustments to cover for Hawk.

Collins is a critical loss. Rodgers and the offense are going to have to make up for it on the scoreboard.

Definitely great news to hear that Collins is up and walking around just fine---per MM.

glorious80s's picture

Agree paragraphs 2 and 3. Best Wishes to Collins.

CaLIPACKFAN's picture

Lets get Bigby lol

ohenry78's picture

I agree with the first comment here. I don't think in this situation that it's so much up to Peprah to fill in for Collins, even if he is his injury replacement; Burnett needs to fill the playmaking and deep-covering gap that Collins leaves behind, and Peprah just needs to stay solid and limit mistakes. If they can both do that, then hopefully it won't be too much different than last year when they spent much of the season with Peprah and Collins back there.

Collins being down is a huge blow, but I think that Burnett is the greater key to their success now.

tony's picture

It seems like we just have two strong safeties back there now.

Mark's picture

Well I saw Burnett and Collins as 2 Free Safeties Burnett has the range and athleticism so maybe they move Burnett over to free and Pep to strong to maybe compensate the loss of Collins.

Spiderpack's picture

By the end of the season Burnett will be assignment sure enough and playing at a high enough level for the defensive backfield to allow us to be SB contenders. We'll allow a few extra big plays back there until then, and Burnett will get fooled and burned, but hopefully not more than the offense can combat. Burnett is a true Playmaker, that much is crystal clear. He's also a true student of the game and carries a lot of dignity & honor with him. Let's be patient with him and watch in (hopeful) amazement as our offense tries to score even more points to pick up the slack.

redlights's picture

Teams have more film on Peprah this year, so they may exploit him more. On the other hand, Burnett doesn't have much film. I expect Cutler to challenge them and make our safeties make plays.

Isn't Bigby in Seatlle? I view him as another Peprah, not a Collins. Levine for depth would be fine; or the roster spot to fill OL or ?

tony's picture

If I don't hear the name Charlie Peprah once the rest of the year, he's done his job. He knows what he's doing, and we know what he's capable of doing.

Next man up.

Pack Morris's picture

What could be better than a few Jay Cutler INT's for this revised line-up to give them some confidence?

Nerdmann's picture

We'll get 4. Tramon's coming back, right?

fishandcrane's picture

In a situation like this what do you all think:(I like our components)

40% coaching the change
30% GM managing the change
30% the player

Molly's picture

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