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Secondary Is Most Pressing Issue

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Secondary Is Most Pressing Issue

With Chad Clifton back in the fold, the beleaguered Packers secondary is now the number one area of concern for the Green Bay Packers, no matter what Mike Vandermause would have you believe.

Simply put, yes, the Packers need someone to compliment Matthews. But they need SEVERAL players to shore up a secondary that allowed a bushel full of yards. Counting on a 35 year old Al Harris to return from a devastating knee injury is not a plan - it's suicide. Giving Tramon Williams the 1st round tender was a good idea, because losing him would be disastrous and there's no team on Earth that's going to give up a 1st round pick for him.

But after Williams, there are nothing but questions. Blackmon can't stay healthy and has never really shown anything more than the ability to get close to a guy and grab him. Pat Lee, while drafted in the 2nd round with worlds of promise, is the secondary's version of Justin Harrell, unable to stay healthy (though it could be argued that Thompson erroneously put the second year corner on IR at the beginning of the year when he could very well have been ready by the last month of the season, just when they would have needed him most) And obviously we know, Jarrett Bush is not the answer. To any question.

One player where improvement could show up from within is Brandon Underwood. The kid was way out of his element when he was put on the field against the Buccaneers, but you could see little glimmers as the year went on, the way he was able to set his feet and drive when breaking on a receiver, rather than grabbing with his arms. Of course, he and Bush were a big reason the middle of the field was so wide open in the playoff game against the Cardinals, with Dom Capers giving each safety help outside, scared to death Warner would eat them alive up the sidelines (which, incidentally, is what Warner did to the Vikings earlier in the year) but there's some promise there. Underwood just has to seize the opportunity that's there this offseason, starting by living in the weight room.

Another player where improvement from within could appear is the much maligned Josh Bell. Most fans will only remember the game-winning touchdown he gave up against the Steelers, but I think the kid has got the ability to be a solid dime or even nickel corner. As Donald's Designated Driver wrote when he was signed:

I interrupt your snarky comments to remind you that both Tramon Williams and Atari Bigby were undrafted free agents cut by their first teams and signed by the Packers in November/December.

Of course, Williams has turned out much better than Bigby, but it's a great point.

All this said, this is one of those rare instances where I think you might see a signing late in the free agency period, most likely after the draft, of some kind of veteran. Perhaps a Deshea Townsend or even Lito Sheppard. Are these guys the answer? Hardly - but you've got to think Thompson would look at how his young guys wilted when thrust into the spotlight last year and would respond by bringing in at least one veteran player to try and help settle the position for a team that is gearing up for a title run.

All of the above, and I haven't even touched on the issue of who will play across from Nick Collins. Yes, Bigby has been a disappointment from the standpoint that he can't seem to stay healthy. But there's no denying the defense plays better with him back there, if only marginally so. I had hoped the Packers would make a run at Ryan Clark, but it seems Clark was never seriously thinking about leaving the Steelers, using a visit to the Dolphins much the same way Clifton used his "visit" to the Redskins as a means to get a few extra dollars out of his original team.

So where does that leave the Packers? Well, as I said in the last installment of My Ugly Mug, there's a looooong time between now and opening day, and Thompson will no doubt look at all avenues available to upgrade the strong safety position. But make no mistake, the play of the secondary over the course of the last month of the 2009 season was unacceptable. No, you can't predict things like injuries to three guys on your corner depth chart, (You CAN be a bit more proactive when dealing with those injuries...but that's another post)

Yes, the Packers need help across from Matthews. They need a plethora of help behind him.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (21) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Dayne Shuda's picture

Q: What NFL player made $2 million in 2009?

A: Jarrett Bush

Will Fred Smoot be available after the draft?

ZaphodBeeblebrox's picture

I agree, if there's a talented CB or S there in the first round, take him. With Clifton back in the fold, the urgent need to find someone at LT becomes less pressing. Harris may not come back, and even if he does, he may not be the same player. The D plays more "sure" when Bigby is there, but he's injury-prone and slow (tends to come on at the end of the season as the field slows down the speed of the game).

CB/S, fast RB/KR, LT, rush OLB, DE, WR should be on the list of positions of need (please, no more fullbacks or TE's in the Packers' 2010 draft class).

baboons's picture

That's unfair on Jarrett Bush. Surely he is at least the answer to the question, "Which Packers player is nicknamed Admiral Armbar?"

PackersRS's picture

I absolutely agree that secondary MUST be adressed, by one or two corners, and a safety. It's not an option. We could do with CM3 and Jones, but we cannot do with what we currently have.
However, and I know you didn't advocate for such, but drafting a corner or a safety, unless their last names are Berry or Haden, in the first round would be a mistake. This draft is filled with talent, specially in those positions. However, it's thin at OT. The talent pool ends in the early 2nd round. 95% of what you'll get later on (Veldheer, Saffold, Black and such) won't be franchise players.
So, I agree, but we shouldn't adress it with our 1st round pick. I think we need to aim at CB and S help with picks 2-4. And signing a veteran FA is also a possibility. Lito Sheppard and Chris McCalister are way better right now than Blackmon, Bush, Bell and Underwood are...

PackersRS's picture
RockinRodgers's picture

The Redskins let go of Fred Smoot, so he is out there. He is probably only a nickel or dime corner this point in his career. Still only 30. I don't expect us sign anyone though.

CSS's picture

My 2 cents from another thread restated here:

"From my perspective, CB is the biggest issue. This defense will EXCEL if we have consistant CB play that allows playmakers (Woodson and Collins) to press the line of scrimmage. You’ve seen what Woodson can do, now imagine if another flexible/good CB and/or dominant SS are on the roster allowing playmakers to, well, make plays. I think we’re ‘fine’ with the LB’s we have. Can it stand an updgrade, yes, but they are more than functional in this defense.

Getting Woodson and Collins at the line of scrimmage or underneath is key to making this ‘D’ dominant in 10?."

Last thought outside of that original post: You can find starting and/or impact linebackers all the way through round 5. Impact cover corners and safeties are difficult to find beyond the 3rd. Fortunately, this years CB/S is deep into the 3rd round. BTW, I'm only focusing on defense in this post and how to generate consistant pressure and build upon the gains made in 09' on run defense.

Ron LC's picture

After two 500 yd disasters at the end of the season, a giant weakness was brought forward and Dom had no answer to it. CB and S should be a priority. Let's not forget, however, the likelihood of Tauscher and Clilfton playing every game this years is small. Don't forget the O line just yet.

nerdmann's picture

Ron LC is right. LT remains the biggest need.

Brett Cristino's picture

Good thoughts, I agree and the HUGE question will be health. My breakout player on Defense this year is Pat Lee so I'm optimistic we'll be OK on the back end.

CounterPoint's picture

...its easy to see why fans and pundits alike say that infusing the secondary with fresh talent is a huge priority...But much more pressing, in my eyes anyway, is the need for a pass rusher who can ‘win’ without Capers needing to scheme him free.

packeraaron's picture

Counter - You got me. That is, after all, what Matthews is, or can be. Look at the Steelers - They have Harrison on one side and he is lights out, no doubt. On the other? Lamar Woodley, who is by no means a pass rushing beast. It can be done. Now, is Jones the guy? I have no idea. But the biggest jump for players comes from season one to season two. Not saying they should count on Jones, just that that position is not the desperate need fans and pundits seem to think it is, including myself.

packeraaron's picture

What, I'm not allowed to change my mind? ;)

BLACKHAWK's picture

Zap...agree we need CB/S and LT, but we need someone who can punt before we need a WR.

NickGBP's picture

I think pass rush is still the chief issue here, namely because we have some guys back there who have some talent if we stay healthy. Pass rush has been an issue for the past few years. I'd just keep picking up LBs that you can use in ST if they don't pan out as rushers. Thats what I'd focus on.

FITZCORE1252's picture


NOOOO to Haden. The kid's S-L-O-W. 4.57 & 4.6 in Indy. He's a classic case of a guy looking better in college than he really is due to being surrounded by superior talent. Guy's got Ahmad Raheem Carrol written all over him = BUST. And you are correct, this does look to be a deep secondary draft, no need to reach. Totally agree, let's target the secondary in the mid-later rounds, I don't see the value on the front end ('cause we're not gonna be getting a Berry or Thomas).


dilligaff's picture

I totally disagree with you as far as priorities, the O-line is still the most pressing need to improve the team, a repeat performance from our last years squad is not acceptable to take this team to the next level. The O-line by themselves almost cost the Pack the season. Clifton represents maintaining last years performance (Jerad Allen) and will not be available due to injury when we will need him most, negating anything gained. Left guard position is not strong at all with Colledge, Spitz has had back surgery (Justin Harrell) and with the Tauscher still not signed the right tackle position is still not certain. Our O-line has not been improved, maintained maybe, not improved. I rate last years performance as unacceptable. Our secondary that is healthy is further along with talent and skill players than our O-line. I would still argue that a 3-4 defense foundation (like the O-line) is the LBs. Not only are we looking at a rookie/Brad Jones opposite of Mathews, but the position next to Barnett Hawk/Chillar/Bishop is uncertain and weak. Without a solid group of LBs, you will not see the fruits of any upgrading your secondary if the better QBs in this league have time to throw the ball, advantage goes to the offense. First step is to get the QB to throw the ball before is he ready, thus eliminating the offensive advantage and a good CB a chance. Pressure has to come first, lack of pressure will make even Woodson/Collins look average (Cardinal game).

LACheez's picture

i definitely agree with Aaron's earlier assessment with the biggest need being the pass rush. if opposing quarterbacks wouldn't have 8 seconds to throw the ball, we'd be fine (or close to fine...) in the secondary. NFL commentators are always saying that if you give the quarterback that long to throw, NFL receivers will always find a way to get open, no matter who is covering them. pass rush first! let's get another beast opposite of matthews. but...i do disagree with Aaron about Lamar Woodley on the Steelers...last year only Dumervil and Allen had more sacks in the league than Woodley! He had 13.5!!!

nerdmann's picture

I must note that imo, it's not the defense that lost the game against the Cardinals. If you turn the ball over TWICE in your first three plays, inside the opponent's red zone, you can't expect to win in the playoffs. Then add that final play, and that's 21 points right there.
And remember, that was the #1 red zone team in the league last year.

buckslayernyc's picture

The Packers have a couple or 3 guys that may or may not be able to play in the secondary - Lee, Blackmon, Harris. The offensive line has 2 guys that may not make it through the season (Clifton and Tauscher) but a real good rookie and Spitz coming back...and a couple guys that may or may not make it (Barbre Giacommin) The Linebacking Corps has 3 first rounders plus two other guys with big contracts, and another rookie that started at the end, and just needs to put on some weight and progress a bit.

So if I am Ted and sitting at 23.....I take the best LT or CB if they are worth it at the position. If there is not one worth it I take the biggest DT or Pass Rushing LB/hybrid. I do not take a receiver, RB, TE, QB, or safety.
All of this means we are trading Back!

cav55's picture

I wouldn't mind seeing the pack sign Richard marshall from the panthers. 25 yaers old and 5 years in the league, he has never had a season with less than 70 tackles. The panthers tendered him as a second round pick. I could definately see the pack going after a corner in the late second why not go after an already established nfl corner?
If they address corner in the draft I really like Brandon Ghee from wake forest. His measurables look great and his interviews have been really good too. I just wonder if he'll still be around in the late 2nd.

What do you guys think?

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