Late in the 2009 regular season, the Steelers torched the Packers’ pass defense. Then everyone saw what happened to this unit in the playoffs against Arizona, which directly led to Green Bay’s elimination. What has changed since then? Not much.
Charles Woodson was simply awesome in 2009, but he isn’t a young man and a slight regression should be expected from a career-type season. The Packers like to use Woodson in a variety of ways, which is extremely smart considering he is still the total physical package for any defensive back and can perform any duty asked of him. He is tremendous, but a slight regression shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The only real change from last season is Al Harris, whose knee injury made him a nonfactor. But he is 35 years old and was a better fit in Green Bay’s old 4-3 scheme that demanded the corners play a lot of man-to-man coverage. He will be welcomed back, but it remains to be seen just how well the knee holds up and allows him to play.
Jarrett Bush allows far too many big plays, but Tramon Williams played pretty well in Harris’ absence last year. Williams is too risky with his decisions, but does show good ball skills. It isn’t out of the question that he takes another step forward. He will have to. Pat Lee, a second-round pick in 2008, also could factor in, but he has had a very difficult time staying on the field and has shown little to get excited about thus far.
Although corner play is potentially problematic for the Packers, I do expect the safety production and range as a unit to be improved with Morgan Burnett added to the mix. Green Bay could also see a leap in production from its very young set of starting outside linebackers, leading to more pressure on the quarterback. That should help, but with the receivers in this division, poor corner play is going to be exposed sooner or later.
Surprisingly, the Packers really didn’t do a thing this offseason to pump up their cornerback corps and I fear that it might cost them in the playoffs -- as it did last year. Luckily for Green Bay, it has an awful lot of firepower on offense. But will it be enough?