Here's the final installment of our series looking at the Packers depth chart in advance of training camp which opens five weeks from today's posting.
Green Bay defensive backs have never had a problem finding the footballs thrown by opposing quarterbacks. Granted, interceptions were down a bit last season with 18 but since 2008, no team in the league has been better with the pick than the Pack. In the past four years, Green Bay has 125 interceptions, 25 more than the next team. They've returned 17 of those picks for six, two more than the Bears and the Packers have piled up a whopping 2,194 interception return yards, 570 more than second place Tampa Bay. The numbers are great, but remember just two years ago, the secondary gave up 4.988 passing yards, more than any team in history. The franchise hasn't been able to adequately replace a pair of Pro Bowlers in Al Harris and Nick Collins and now they'll have to replace a certain NFL Hall of Famer in Charles Woodson, The two players that have to step up to that elite level and soon are safety Morgan Burnett and corner Tramon Williams. Burnett is entering his fourth season, third if you don't count an injury shortened rookie campaign. He's considered an excellent communicator but now the big plays have to start coming. Williams is hoping to rebound from a shoulder injury that plagued him a year ago, he insists it's a hundred percent and Tramon needs to return to the form of 2010 and 2011. The starting corner opposite of Williams you would think would be Sam Shields, but there are no guarantees. Shields skipped the voluntary portion of the off-season work, finally signing his restricted free agent tender just before the mandatory mini-camp. Blessed with blazing speed and good ball skills, both on display when he swiped Colin Kaepernick's first pass in the NFC Divisional playoff game, Sam has to find consistency and if he doesn't Davon House might. House has to stay healthy too but at 6-1 and 195, he's the biggest of the corners and plays a physical style. The Woodson replacement is a two man battle between M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian. Jennings probably is the front runner but the coaches like McMillian's physical play in the box. They were on the field together in the dime package during the OTA's. Talk about a first impression, last year's second round pick Casey Hayward sure made one. The rangy corner led the team with six picks and 25 passes defensed. His ceiling has gotten a lot higher and he could be a core player in the secondary for years to come. It's hard to believe Jarrett Bush is entering his 8th NFL season. Fans wanted him cut in each of his first four years but he's an unquestioned leader of the special teams and a versatile defender. Teams like to employ players like this. The only defensive back drafted in April was Micah Hyde of Iowa in the fifth round. He looks the part and should find his way onto the roster but he'll have to soar above a veteran for playing time. That's nine defensive backs, as many as the team kept last year. A player I think can make the case to keep 10 is safety Sean Richardson. A rangy 6-1 and 216 pounds, he's the biggest of the bunch. A hamstring injury early and back injury late wiped out his 2012 season. He eventually underwent neck surgery and won't return to the practice field until August. Brandon Smith, James Nixon and Loyce Means appear to be camp corners, the same for safeties David Fulton and Chaz Powell. It would take a rash of injuries for any of those five to stick.
Mason Crosby had a case of the yips that got so bad, the team decided to bring in some competition for the first time since he made the team six years ago. Giorgio Tavecchio is a pint sized, left footed kicker from Cal with an engaging personality but Crosby would have to have a miserable summer to lose his job. Mason appeared to get his straightened out late last season and into the playoffs. It's been fun to watch the growth of Tim Masthay. He was a scrawny sort when he beat out a hulking Australian to win the job and after a shaky rookie season, has become impressively consistent in every facet of the job. He'll have an interesting camp anyway, spinning around from the right side to hold for Crosby, and then to the left for Tavecchio. Long snapper Brett Goode is entrenched, can't remember the last rocket ball over a punter's head, or dribbler to the holder from him.