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Posts tagged with "Morgan Burnett"

The Packers’ best new face so far is the player selected with the 33rd pick in the draft.

Green Bay Press Gazette-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Green Bay Packers have 21 players on the current 53-man roster who were not on it at the end of last season.

Of those 21, the Packers acquired them as follows:

  • Nine free agent signings
  • Six picks from the 2017 NFL Draft
  • Three undrafted rookies
  • One player claimed on waivers from another team (Chris Odom)
  • One player signed off another team’s practice squad (Ulrick JohnCardinals)
  • One player who spent 2016 on the Packers’ practice squad (Lucas Patrick)

Of those players, however, two stand out among all others as the best newcomers to the Packers’ roster so far in this early season. Those two are the Packers’ top two draft picks, cornerback Kevin King and safety/nitro linebacker Josh Jones.

However, while Jones has been a playmaker in the middle of the defense, playing primarily inside linebacker over the past two games, King’s early emergence as a boundary corner has been critical to the Packers’ success in defending the pass.

For some context, the Packers are currently 5th in passing yards allowed, though their ranking drops to 17th in opponents’ passer rating and they are 15th in pass DVOA. Last season in those three measures, the team ranked 31st, 26th, and 23rd, respectively.

Still, the Packers have faced significant issues at the cornerback position this season, with veteran free agent signing Davon House missing two-plus games with an injury and third-year players Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins effectively being benched over the past two weeks. Not coincidentally, King has stepped into the starting lineup and since doing so he has largely held his own against a few of the premier wide receivers in the NFL.

After Julio Jones was torching the Packers in the early going during their week two game in Atlanta, King entered the game and shadowed him for much of the rest of the game, keeping him largely in check and not allowing a reception into his coverage. King struggled a bit more when asked to shadow the Bengals’ A.J. Green in week three, but played well against a brutally weak Bears’ receiving corps in week four. Furthermore, APC’s Peter Bukowski found this little nugget which, small sample size aside, is certainly notable:

Packers rookie Kevin King has a better passer rating allowed in coverage than Patrick Peterson, Desmond Trufant, and Marcus Peters.

Meanwhile, the players lining up at the other corner spots have rotated heavily. Randall’s struggles led to his benching against the Bears, meaning Josh Hawkins played every snap in the second half last Thursday. Rollins, meanwhile, was removed from the lineup prior to week three’s game, being replaced as the primary slot cornerback by Morgan Burnett.

Of course, Josh Jones has provided some highlight-reel plays, including a pair of sacks in week three and some notable tackles for loss. However, the Packers’ defense would still be able to function without him lining up in the middle — in fact, they did so for much of the first half against Chicago, moving him around and giving him some rest when they lined up with a pair of more conventional inside linebackers.

Remove King from the equation and the Packers would be down to an injured veteran, two benched third-year pros, a second-year undrafted free agent, and an undrafted rookie who has yet to take a snap on defense in a regular season game.

For that reason, Kevin King earns our vote as the Packers’ best newcomer over the first quarter of the 2017 season.

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Former undrafted free-agent safeties showed up again in Denver

DENVER – Kentrell Brice could almost count the blades of grass separating the Packers safety from finding the end zone for the first time in his NFL career on Saturday night.

However, a 42-yard interception return wasn’t too bad a consolation prize, either.

Brice made the play of night during Green Bay’s third preseason game, picking off an overthrown pass from Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian in the first quarter and returning it all the way back to the Broncos’ 2-yard line.While the Packers ultimately dropped their first preseason contest in a 20-17 defeat at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Brice’s interception set the table for running back Ty Montgomery to score a 2-yard touchdown to give Green Bay a 10-0 lead at the time.

Brice, who made a spot start for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, was tripped up just short of goal line, which his fellow safeties had a good time with once Brice returned to the sideline.“I was messing with him,” Packers veteran safety Morgan Burnett said. “I don’t know if the altitude had something to do with it. I thought he was going to score, though. We always joke about who has return skills in the room. I think we’re going to joke with him a little bit.”

With Clinton-Dix being held out for precautionary reasons with knee soreness, it afforded both Brice and fellow second-year safety Marwin Evans extra snaps in the Packers’ secondary.

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Green Bay has confidence in four returning veterans leading room

GREEN BAY – The landscape of NFL defenses is changing with a riptide of athletic tight ends and dynamic slot receivers ushering in a new era of playmakers.

Smaller, faster defenders are creeping into the box to combat them. The lines between positions have blurred with players once categorized as defensive backs now stepping into hybrid roles.

Morgan Burnett has epitomized this phenomena in Green Bay. The Packers’ veteran safety had a career year in 2016, playing everywhere from boundary and slot cornerback to inside linebacker.

As excited as the Packers are about maximizing the flexibility of Burnett and incoming rookie Josh Jones, the traditional linebacker isn’t going anywhere, either.

In fact, the Packers are as deep and full of options at the position as they’ve been in the last six years with Jake RyanBlake MartinezJoe Thomas and Jordan Tripp all returning.

“I think that where we are right now compared to this time last year – you’re talking about Blake Martinez has a year under his belt,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers of last year’s fourth-round pick. “Blake continues to make progress. Jake Ryan has played in there. Obviously, Joe has played a lot for us. Jordan Tripp is doing a nice job inside.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good mixture of guys there and more experience than what we’ve had.”

Ryan, Thomas and Martinez combined to play more than 1,600 snaps a year ago, finishing third, fourth and six, respectively, in total tackles in what was the NFL’s eighth-ranked run defense.

The Packers opened the year with Ryan and Martinez playing on early downs, and Thomas again playing the dime linebacker role until midseason injuries – Ryan and Martinez missed five combined games – opened the door for the former undrafted free agent to seize an every-down opportunity.

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