1. Welcome to Green Bay Packers NFL Football Forum & Community!

    Packer Forum is one of the largest online communities for the Green Bay Packers. You are currently viewing our community forums as a guest user.

    Sign Up or

    Having an account grants you additional privileges, such as creating and participating in discussions. Furthermore, we hide most of the ads once you register as a member!
    Dismiss Notice

Great Training Camp Battles Loom in the Pack's Secondary

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Jul 11, 2007.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    Great Training Camp Battles Loom in the Packers’ Defensive Secondary
    July 10, 2007
    Written by Bruce Smith - PackerChatters Staff



    Yes, three of the four starting positions in the Green Bay Packers’ secondary are locked down by veterans Harris, Woodson and Collins. And yes, short of injury all three will hold onto their jobs as starters.

    However, after those three locks to start, the competition should be wild and intense for the 4th starting spot, and the two to three positions open in the nickel and dime packages that have become essential mainstay in today’s NFL defensive arsenals.

    For the moment Marquand Manuel is still penciled in as the starting strong safety, but after his dismal play last season, the young guys Atari Bigby, Tyrone Culver, Marviel Underwood, Aaron Rouse, and Charlie Peprah, all of whom have more physical talent than Manuel, are gunning for his spot. I am sure most of you will be surprised to learn that at the moment they are lined up just as I listed them above.

    Atari Bigby has worked like a mad man throughout the off-season and turned coach’s heads in the mini-camps and OTA’s. This tough 5-11 and 210 lb Jamaican born safety has the speed to run side line to side line and is physically tough enough to battle TE’s, blowup receivers and provide solid support for the run defense. This work has Atari running slightly ahead of last year’s rookie surprise Tyrone Culver

    Like last season, the 6-1 and 200 lb Culver used his head and instincts to get the every bit out of his athletic ability. Tyrone is a solid tackler, contains well in the open field and secures the ball carrier with solid wrap-up and tackling technique. Tyrone continues to be a film room freak and will not be caught under prepared in this sure to be intense playing time and roster spot battle.

    Marviel Underwood was positioned to make his move last season in training camp when he shredded his knee in the first preseason game. When healthy this 5-10 200 lb youngster packs a wallop and has above average speed and quickness for a safety. I know some of you want to pencil him in as the starter; however Underwood’s freak injury will test his ability to overcome adversity and result in him entering the competition stiff and full of rust. Add to that this young man does not have years of experience to fall back on and you begin to see the substantial hurdles Marviel will have to overcome to emerge victorious in this cage match competition.

    Of course any discussion on the Safety position needs to factor in 3rd round draft pick Aaron Rouse, a 6-4 220 lb intriguing prospect from Virginia Tech. Aaron had a monster junior season, but struggled greatly in his senior season. Part of this could be attributable to the fact that he never settled into a single position at Virginia Tech (Rouse began as an outside linebacker at Virginia Tech but eventually shifted to safety) and partly because he played with a broken hand. His physical tools make him an exceptionally prospect with some pretty impressive raw measurable's - like being 6-4 220 and running a 4.37 40.

    However, he will be competing in the big leagues and cannot afford to stumble like he did as a senior at VT. For many reasons I don't think Aaron has will be in the competition for serious playing time, but he should cash in on some very good physical tools and upside potential to make the team. If he is a quick learner he may have an opportunity to be a monster contributor on special teams as he uses his rookie season to learn the craft of playing safety in the NFL.

    Two long shots hoping for injury opportunities opening roster spots for them include Charlie Peprah and Alvin NNabuife. Charlie played in a big time program and Alvin is a sleeper who played in NFLE.

    I would be remiss if I did not point out, while I have been down on Manuel from the moment the rumors of Thompson’s interest began, he is a veteran player who has survived to craft a NFL career and will not lie down without a fight. He will have to really turn up his game to hold off the young hungry pack gnawing at his heals and ready to pounce at even the slightest stumble.

    While the competition at Safety will draw a great deal of ink and much of the attention, the competition does not stop there. While there are only 4 starting positions, modern NFL defensive backfields frequently man the field with 2 to 3 more DB’s in their nickel and dime packages

    Frank Walker is an aggressive, 25 year old, hard-hitting cornerback whose playing ability and experience should make him an ideal candidate for the nickel and dime job. Walker is a pretty straight-laced, "breath-sleep-and-eat" football guy who should thrive in a town like Green Bay. He is blessed with a true CB mentality, a short memory on the field (when plays don't go as planned) and loads of confidence, both are essential ingredients for success at CB in the NFL.

    Remember, Walker has started in this league, and as a 25 year old with 4 years experience, Frank still has plenty of upside to build on to that experience. Walker's got good speed (running in the low 4.4’s for the Packer workout) and he is fluid, with good burst and the flexible hips that are so essential for playing CB in the NFL. He is a strong tackler, which is always nice for nickel and dime packages, as is his superior ball awareness - especially playing zone defense. Areas of growth include: getting better at jamming receivers in press coverage and staying away from taking penalties of over-aggression. He has been relatively healthy, but did have some hamstring issues last season.

    Of course Walker will have to compete with Will Blackmon, Jarrett Bush and Patrick Dendy for playing time at the CB position.

    Dendy is the one who grabbed the job of nickel back after Ahmad Carroll was released in week 5 or the '06 season and hopes to parlay that experience with hard work over the off season to hold the nickel job and first CB off the bench. Patrick Dendy, at 6' 190 lbs has the right mental makeup to play the corner and his 3 interceptions were impressive and timely, After suffering through watching Carroll’s flagatitus, even the casual observer had to be impressed by the fact that Dendy handled the top nickel job while only drawing one penalty all season long. Equally important to the defense was the fact that his teammates could count on him to be where he was supposed to be - Dendy studies hard and plays assignment sure for a young undrafted free agent corner.

    Jarrett Bush 6 foot 200 lbs, on the other hand, is loaded with athletic ability, with a great size to speed ratio, who rarely got on the field as a defender last season as a free-agent rookie pickup. Last season Jarrett did provide the team with the Kamikaze special team player that most teams covet, and where he delivered big hits and impressive hustle as a gunner on the punt team. He also was a fixture on the kick-off coverage team.

    If the coaching staff can work with this kid on developing his ability as a corner, he might surprise some folks and leap-frog into the nickel position in 2007. He certainly has the size and strength and athletic ability to do the job, if he can just get it down between the ears, he should make a great press CB. He stood out at mini-camp and OTA’s with his marked improvement

    Of course the biggest hopes at this position lie with the 6 foot 202 pound, Will Blackmon. Will watched his rookie season implode due to injuries right out of the gate - he broke his foot in mini-camp and as soon as he healed he fractured his ribs and ended up on the IR for the season.

    While there is no questioning Will Blackmon's athletic ability, there certainly are questions about his development. Blackmon was outstanding as a DB, but never settled into the position long enough to gather significant experience or learn the more subtle aspects of playing CB due to shifting to wide receiver to benefit his team in college. IF he can stay healthy, he has the athletic ability to not only grab the top spot off the bench, but to eventually be a talented starter in this league. Ah, but there is that BIG IF again…

    Like I said in the title of this piece “Great Training Camp Battles Loom in the Packers’ Defensive Secondary…” So pull up a chair, fasten your seatbelts and let the games begin – this should be fun to watch.
     
  2. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    Messages:
    11,903
    Ratings:
    +8
    Awesome...
     
  3. CaliforniaCheez

    CaliforniaCheez Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Messages:
    2,486
    Ratings:
    +0
    Bruce I don't understand why you think Culver a 6th round pick last year is better than Peprah a 5th round round pick last year. Do you think there is a predjudice within the organization for their own draft picks??

    Peprah, Culver, Manuel, and Bigby are in the biggest battles of their careers. Bigby has an out in that he is eligible for the practice squad.
    You should have an open mind and enjoy the battle knowing the best will survive.

    Collins, Rouse, and Underwood likely will win roster spots. The rest will fight for the last spot. Traditionally 4 Safeties are on the roster.

    CB
    It is likely that 3 of these 4 make the team.
    Blackmon, Walker, Dendy, Bush one will be the odd man out unless one of them goes on the IR for a handnail, sprained finger, or turf toe.

    Traditionally 5 make the roster. Woodson and Harris are the only ones assured of making the team.
     
  4. millertime

    millertime Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2006
    Messages:
    841
    Ratings:
    +0
    Great article. I always wondered why Peprah never got more of a shot. Supposedly he can play CB (nickel) too.
     
  5. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    CC I like Charlie Peprah especially at Alabama, but Culver suprised everyone last year and is running just behind Bigby in the battle coming out of the Mini's and OTA's.

    Yes, TT is partial to his boys, but Culver is ahead based upon performance at this point -- but the battle has not even gotten out of the early rounds yet.

    Yes, Bigby is eligible for the practice squad, but the way he has been showing it is unlikely that he wouldn't get snatched by another team for their regular roster. The kid has always had the physical tools, it has been more a question of his head being screwed on straight for most teams. He seems to have it together and is taking serious aim and gunning for MM's spot.

    I hope that Underwood can come back, but don't forget the guy hasn't even practiced since shredding his knee and the road back is rocky at best.

     
  6. Lare

    Lare Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2005
    Messages:
    705
    Ratings:
    +0
    Last year's pass defense ended up ranked 23rd in the NFL in yards per game, and 27th passing touchdowns yielded. That is in spite of having one of the better pass rushing defensive lines. As such, I would like to think they are looking to improve at virtually every position in the defensive backfield.

    But I suspect you are correct in that three positions are pretty much set already, and I wouldn't be surprised to also see Manuel back at his starting spot come the first game of the season.

    As the old saying goes, in order to improve you have to want to.
     
  7. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

    Joined:
    May 31, 2005
    Messages:
    2,856
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks for another great read, Bruce, especially in these desperate times when there is almost no news coming out about the Packers. I had heard rumblings about Bigby, but up till now I haven't thought he was a serious contender for a starting position. (Wouldn't it be cool if Atari was paired in a defensive backfield with Pacman Jones?)

    You make good points about Underwood. It really is tough for a player to come back from a major injury when he's still learning the position.
     
  8. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    Messages:
    1,000
    Ratings:
    +3
    All I got from that is: Patrick Dendy is the best thing since the interwebs.
     
  9. Mortfini

    Mortfini Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Messages:
    457
    Ratings:
    +0
    good article
    i still think the greatest battle will be at kicker but neverless a good article
     
  10. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    That is what you took from an article titled "Great Training Camp Battles Loom in the Pack's Secondary???" :rubeyes:

    Try having someone read it to your Trom, though I suspect it was probably more of an attention deficit problem. :rotflmao:
     
  11. warhawk

    warhawk Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Messages:
    1,922
    Ratings:
    +38
    Your demise here was that you used the word "leapfrog" and Patrick Dendy in the same sentence and that was enough to set up the Trom for a kill shot.

    Great article. Somewhat surprised at the order there but that's why they coachin' and we watchin'.

    Safety, CB, DL, RB, WR, there are going to be some WARS going on out there to win starting jobs and rotations. WOW.

    This is going to be one of the most competitive camps with a lot of talented guys, albeit young guys, going after each other for jobs.

    Unlike last year when Manuel and Poppinga were not involved in much of any pre-season stuff at all the starters this year should be well in tune and ready to play.

    We need everybody ready with the schedule those dickwads came up with to start the season. At least we won't have five rookies out there to start the year looking around wondering what the heck is going on.

    Can you imagine what was going on with Wells, Colledge, and Spitz last year coming out and looking across at the Bears? Geez. Why not just put them in a meat grinder and be done with it.

    Based on this report we will still be young in some spots but I also think we will be much more prepared to compete right out of the gate. If Atari wins the starting job so be it. I remember they liked his ability last year but he was a little too inconsistant. Maybe he will show he's ready.
     
  12. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    The word leapfrog was said in reference to Bush, not Dendy.

    You're right it will be a very competetive camp this year.

     
  13. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    Messages:
    11,903
    Ratings:
    +8
    OT : why do you put YOUR comment to someones quote AFTER your comment? Are you implying that you are so good that you shot your rebuttal out before they even spoke? (dont get pissy, im asking a question, not attacking ya bro :) )
     
  14. all about da packers

    all about da packers Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2005
    Messages:
    7,033
    Ratings:
    +0
    :rotflmao:

    Awesome.

    In reference to the article, a great read as usual Bruce.
     
  15. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    Is that question to me?

    If it is to me, I think I write them both ways. If it is a long post and I am responding to just one point it is likely that I will put my response first. However, I think I am kind of random about it sometimes - responding in a hurry as I am someone who drops in on occassion but rarely hangs around.

    (edit) after posting this, I noticed that I did it the opposite with your post, so I really do think it is affected by the length of the post I am responding to -- frankly until you asked I never noticed or thought about it.
     
  16. retiredgrampa

    retiredgrampa Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Messages:
    804
    Ratings:
    +0
    Fine analysis as always, Bruce. I enjoyed it, mostly I guess because it sounds as if we have the makings of a fine group of competitive young men, anxious to do battle for those spots. It's going to be tough for the coaches to make the choices they must make. While I tend to blister TT for his inactivity in FA, I give him max kudos for his drafting prowess. I can't remember the last time the Pack has had so many good players, not just athletes, back there. Sentimentally, I hope for Blackmon and Underwood since I feel for guys who have suffered injuries and big disappointments so early. It never seems fair to me even if it is a fact of life in the NFL. Hopefully, the light has come on for Collins too. He can be a game changer, IMO. If the worst happens and Woodson and/or Harris gets hurt, we'll quickly find out how much talent is waiting in the wings.
     
  17. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    Messages:
    11,903
    Ratings:
    +8
    That's cool. Yeah, Just asking. I've alawys been one to ask questions that are really not important, but yet they amuse me somehow lol

    Thanks for the reply and good read.
     
  18. Pack93z

    Pack93z You retired too? .... Not me. I'm in my prime

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2005
    Messages:
    4,855
    Ratings:
    +22
    Here is another piece that was written about the secondary..

    Jerry Gilbert 7/20/2007

    On paper, the Green Bay Packers should be set at defensive back. They return their top three corners, Al Harris, Charles Woodson and Patrick Dendy, and, in the only significant free agent signing thus far, General Manager Ted Thompson added veteran corner back Frank Walker. Returning from injured reserve is 2006 draft choice Will Blackmon. The starters at safety, Nick Collins and Marquand Manuel, also return along with top reserve Tyrone Culver who was drafted last year. As with corner, there is a highly touted returnee form injured reserve, 2006 draftee Marviel Underwood. Finally, the Packers used a third round pick in 2007 to add safety Aaron Rouse. Five safeties and five corners would appear to more than fill the roster. Nevertheless, some camp bodies return from the last year and more have been added.

    The cornerback with the best chance to crack the roster is Jarrett Bush 6-0 197 Utah State. Timed in college at 4.45 and having shown coverage skills, Bush was signed as a free agent by Carolina and was one of their final cuts before the 2006 season. He made 13 tackles and defensed 3 passes along with a fumble recovery in the preseason for the Panthers. Because Green Bay was so thin at corner following the wasted draft choices of Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas and the failed experiment with Jason Horton, Ted Thompson quickly signed Bush to the roster, and the cornerback played in every game on special teams and was the third leading tackler. As a gunner on the punt unit Bush was frequently charging the waiting returner or battling to keep the punt out of the end zone. He remains a camp body, because of the lack of game changing plays on special teams and his inability to add much in the nickel and dime. However, he now has a full season of experience and is in the mix at cornerback.

    Jarrett Bush was not nationally a high profile player in college, but was a consistent performer. He began in junior college as a defensive back and kick returner and was all conference both years and all state as a sophomore. Both in junior college and at Utah State, Bush competed in track as a long jumper, hurdler and member of the 4X100 meter relay team. Also successful in football, although he was only a starter as a senior, Bush was honored as All Western Athletic Conference following that season. Although not noted as a big hitter, Bush was a wrestler in high school, which may help explain his success in tackling. Bush will be in the mix at cornerback

    The other camp body corners are Antonio Malone and Tramon Williams. By coincidence, I was at training camp last season when Malone was signed. He played in one preseason game and was cut before the season began. Re-signed in January, Malone was allocated to Europe and has now returned to compete in Green Bay. The disoriented but willing performer I saw last summer will be worth watching again this season. Tramon Williams was added to the practice squad in November and remained there the final weeks of the season.

    Antonio Malone 6-0 200 4.59 Toledo is described by scouts as playing fast and as a good college cover corner, but he was not drafted probably because of a slow forty at the combine and reduced production as a senior compared to his junior campaign. In a pro day work out he ran a 4.4, which raised his stock enough to be signed by Detroit. He also displayed above average 10 yard and three cone drill times and scored 23 of 29 on the Wonderlic. The Lions waived Malone prior to Training Camp, but he was signed by Green Bay in August. The fact that Antonio Malone was not signed to any practice squad last season adds to the conclusion that he is only a camp body.

    Tramon Williams 5-11 194 4.59 Louisiana Tech is another camp body. Williams was way under the radar in college, and only his 37.5 vertical at his pro day sets him apart as an athlete. Houston signed him originally and he stuck until the final cuts. At Louisiana Tech, Williams was a starter for a season and a half and made some interceptions. He apparently was of enough value on the scout team to last 5 weeks on the Green Bay practice squad. Williams should be around into the preseason games. For what it is worth, his father's name is Ted Williams.

    The camp body safeties provide three interesting names, Atari Bigby, Alvin Nnabuife and Charlie Peprah. Fans can hope for preseason success for these men if only to hear what Chris Berman of ESPN might do with the names.

    Charlie Peprah 5-11 202 Alabama was on the Packer roster all last season and was active for half the games playing exclusively on special teams. A safety with some coverage ability, Peprah was a cornerback for 2 years for the Crimson Tide before switching to safety. During his four years in the Southeast Conference, Peprah started 45 games with 210 tackles including 9 for a loss. He forced 4 fumbles and recovered 5. His 9 interceptions produced 224 yards and 2 touchdowns. The New York Giants drafted Peprah in the 5th round but released him prior to the season, probably intending to keep him on the practice squad. Green Bay claimed the safety for their roster. Charlie Peprah did not play on the defensive unit last season, but following a full year of training camp, he is a candidate for the last safety position on the final 53.

    Like Peprah, Atari Bigby 5-11 214 Central Florida has some experience with the team. He impressed the coaches in training camp last season enough that they kept him on the practice squad despite an injury suffered even before the preseason during "Family Night". Added to the regular roster later in 2006, Bigby played in five games before sustaining another season ending injury. Injuries are an issue with Bigby. During his college career, he missed games or practices with injuries at different times to his left wrist and shoulder and his right knee and hamstring. When playing, he recorded an impressive 296 tackles often playing "in the box" and roaming sideline-to-sideline Allocated to NFL Europe in 2006, Bigby started every game for Amsterdam and performed well. The extent of his ability to cover receivers and the luck to stay healthy will determine Bigby's season. For now, he is a high-end camp body with a shot to be on the opening day roster.

    Alvin Nnabuife 6-1 210 Southern Methodist is, because of the competition, relegated to camp body status with little chance to make the final roster. The story here is strength. At SMU, weighing 208 pounds, Nnabuife bench pressed 341 and squatted over 500. In a strength index that his coaches used, which included the 40 and the other familiar tests of speed, agility and leg strength along with weight lifting, Nnabuife scored the highest on the team. He spent part of his career at linebacker because the team needed him there, but his size and 4.6 speed are better suited to his regular position at safety. To imitate the great Mr. Berman, we can hope that this player stays around awhile and does not vanish "Nnabuife of Smoke".

    The Green Bay media has already hyped Bigby, and Peprah and Bush were solid special team performers last season. This is a fairly impressive camp body group, but most will not make the team when the season begins.
     

Share This Page