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Safety Proves To Be Anything But...

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Feb 13, 2007.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Safety Proves To Be Anything But: Putting the Safe Back into Safety…
    … Part VII of positional analysis series.

    As a long time linebacker in the NFL, Ted Thompson recognized the value of having safeties that could hold the last line of defense behind him.

    Perhaps those memories explain Ted Thompson’s making acquiring a safety his top priority before the start of free agency 2006 – in fact, TT made Marquand Manuel his top FA priority in 2006.

    Truth be told, Ted was so anxious to secure signing Manuel that he flirted with tampering charges by prematurely talking about this while Marquand was still under contract with the Seahawks, and had to backtrack and retract his comments to satisfy Seattle and the league office.

    It was the first, but not the last of Thompson’s safety miscalculations that made the 2006 version of Safety an oxymoron.

    As soon as ‘04’ & ‘05’ starting S Mark Roman saw what Thompson was paying Manuel, (who Roman had beat out for a job and roster spot in Cincinnati), Mark asked to either have his contract extended or be terminated. Thompson declined both of his requests, but five months later had a change of heart and granted Mark’s request for release just before the start of training camp.

    General manager Ted Thompson said the Packers held on to Roman because their safety position was not deep, but believing in his draft picks and Manuel whom he signed to assume a starting role, Thompson reversed course and decided it was best to release Mark Roman after all.

    "As we're signing our rookies we had two more guys than we can go to training camp with," Thompson said. "We like the look of some our young guys and we felt that Mark did a good job here, but letting him go now allows him to hook on with another team and get a job.”

    Some might argue that it was just a continuation of miscalculations that lead to a season start that saw an astronomical number of big play explosions cripple the Packers early and often in the 1st half of ‘06’.

    =======================================================
    With 2006 in the review mirror let’s take a look at the safety prospects going forward:


    Nick Collins at 5-11 201 lbs is a gifted athlete with incredible physical skills. Nick is also a guy who scored embarrassing low on the Wonderlic test and has played up and down over the course of his first 32 games, leaving some wonder(lic)ing (pardon the pun) if he can handle the position without being babysat by a veteran presence at the other Safety position.

    Bowing to ethics of full disclosure, I am a Nick Collins fan and believe that there is plenty of reason for optimism, and only partially because of his enormous upside potential.

    But let’s back up and review for a minute, and start by a look back at Collin’s rookie season. Despite questions about his readiness, Collins started all 16 games at free safety as a rookie, the first rookie to do so since Chuck Cecil did so in 1988 – no small accomplishment. Nick did not disappoint finishing his season with 96 tackles, 9 passes defended, an interception, two forced fumbles, and a spot on the All-rookie squad.

    Great things were expected from Collins for ‘06’ but they did not come to fruition until the month of December, when Collins took the reigns and stopped over-thinking and started playing up to his great athletic ability.

    Down the ‘06’ NFL stretch, and especially the last 4 games, Nick played up to the promise that most had for him coming into his sophomore season. Nick Collins sealed the victory against SF by jumping a pass intended for Davis. The once porous defense started tightening and shutting down opponents.

    In the season finale against da bears, Nick played like an All Pro. He dominated the field in front of a National TV audience, snaring two exceptional interceptions and just missing a third. He flew all over the field making blow up tackles, forcing Lovie Smith to quickly reconsider his tactic of having his starters on the field.

    For the season Nick Collins registered 80 tackles and 15 assists, he forced two fumbles, snared three interceptions, tied for 2nd on the team with turnover plays – 5, scored a TD and put up an impressive 13 passes defended.

    Nick has amazing speed for a safety (4.38 – 40) and can get over the top and close fast to the ball. He is an aggressive run defender who loves to put the leather to ball carriers and is good at wrapping up and finishing. Collins uses his speed to get downhill in a hurry and fill alleys. Nick’s performance against the Saints is a great example of his ability to track down and finish tackles like a LB with CB speed. In the aforementioned game, Nick Collins found the elusive Reggie Bush in the open field and stopped him in his tracks on at least 4 occasions – refusing to be shaken by Bush’s amazing quickness.

    On the negative side, Nick Collins clearly came into ‘06’ missing the security blanket of Veteran Mark Roman playing aside him. Nick was thinking far too much early in the season, which exaggerated his already limited instincts and ball awareness. Nick does not have great hands, and leaves some interceptions on the field – you know the old adage, if he could catch the ball he would probably play on offense...

    However, once December started (and peaking against da bears) the light seemed to come on for Collins. Nick stopped thinking and started playing up to his extraordinary physical ability.

    The best news of all is: Safeties rarely see the field as starters before their 3rd season in the NFL, often the coming out season for many players, as their bodies and heads finally catch up to the speed of the Pro game. For Nick this will all take place with the added bonus of him having 32 games of experience as a starter at 23 years young.

    [​IMG]

    I look for great things from Nick Collins in 2007 – especially if a player can be found to adequately man the other safety position along side him.

    ========================================================
    Speaking of the other safety position, it was manned (or often unmanned) by Marquand Manuel – the anti-Nick Collins. Where Nick is a great athlete, with unlimited upside, Marquand is very limited athlete, with virtually no upside potential.

    It would be generous to say Manuel had an up and down season – unless of course your were describing his propensity to kiss turf while missing tackles. Several of us went ballistic when we heard that TT was targeting Manuel in free agency – here at Packers’ Chatters resident former scout Patty was quick to declare that Marquand was slow and had virtually no cover skills. I agreed.

    Sadly, he was worse than I expected – and I was one of his most verbal critics. He was just as slow in coverage as I expected, but was a far worse tackler and had even worse reaction time than I dreamt possible. He led the team in missed tackles with 15, despite being billed as a sure tackler that would be a significant upgrade in that area from Roman. And unless the ball carrier was right in front of him, Manuel demonstrated no ability to make a play in the open field.

    Thompson declared at signing what a great communicator Marquand was in Seattle. Well, unless they speak a totally different language in the upper North West, Manuel left those skills with the Seahawks. Trying to assume the role of leader, Marquand quickly turned off veterans Woodson and Harris with his know-it-all attitude – demonstrating lots of talk with very little walk to back it up.

    Manuel gave up 6 TD passes, the most by a Packer safety since the Infante era, and 5 plays in excess of 20 yards (I had him at 6 but I will go with the consensus number). Marquand did not manage to force a single fumble over the course of the season – despite his advance billing as a big-hitter, and he also failed to get a single recovery.

    On the plus side, Manuel did make 81 tackles, one more than Nick Collins. He also got his first regular season interception and TD of his career, off of a deflection by former Packer CB Ahmad Carroll. He did manage to defend 2 or 3 (depending on whose count you accept) passes, doubling his pathetic 5 year career total of 5.

    [​IMG]
    Over the course of the 2006 season Manuel often demonstrated why he had been a career backup before coming to Green Bay. Frankly, it is my sincere hope that this 6’ 209 lb SS will return to his previous role of backup in ‘07’ where he may be able to some provide veteran depth and perhaps solid special teams’ contributions.

    ========================================================
    Tyrone Culver, was a surprise coming out of Fresno State as the Packers’ 2nd selection of the 6th round. Most thought he would fight to secure a spot on the developmental squad, instead he became a top reserve and secured a roster spot far quicker than anyone expected.

    Culver came to camp knowing that he must seize any and every opportunity presenting itself. The first came when TT decided to let Roman seek employment elsewhere before camp started. The second came via Manuel’s calf injury. The third coming when Underwood tore up his right knee trying to avoid a block in the first preseason game.

    But to his credit, he took advantage of each opportunity. In his first start against Atlanta in the preseason he picked off Vick in the first quarter. He also made several nice open field tackles. When coupled with his solid play in camp, his play against the Falcons probably sealed the deal of his roster spot – especially since Thompson still anticipated Manuel being the answer come the start of the regular season.

    At 6-1 and 200 lbs, Culver uses his head and instincts to get the most out of his about average athletic ability for a safety (Note: he only appears to be fast when seeing him on the field with Manuel). Tyrone is a solid tackler, contains well in the open field and secures the ball carrier with solid wrap-up and technique. As a rookie he was tirelessly living in the film room as early as the mini-camps and all the way through the season.

    [​IMG]

    With a season of experience and an off-season in GB working out and studying, the 23 yr old Culver expects to hold his roster spot, and compete for the starting Safety job along side of Nick Collins.

    ========================================================
    I have little doubt that if Marviel Underwood had been available, Marquand Manuel would have been riding the pine watching Underwood play by game 3 of the ‘06’ season.

    As a rookie Underwood performed well for a rookie safety taken with the 4th pick out of San Diego State. He stood out on special teams where he led the coverage teams with 23 tackles and earned his way on to the field in dime packages as the season progressed.

    At only 5-10, this 200 lb youngster packs a wallop – he was the only player to force a lost fumble on Shaun Alexander during his record setting ‘05’ season. Underwood has above average speed and quickness for a safety. And despite his freak injury has a solid build that should stand up well to the wear and tear of professional football.

    Marviel explodes well through hits, plays low and gets players to the turf despite sometimes regressing in technique and failing to wrap up ball carriers. Underwood can come up and fill alleys – but he is best in the open field.

    While his coverage skills were raw coming out of college, his superior speed allows him to cover a wide range at safety. He has a fluid style that allows him to cut off his backpedal and recovery speed to cover deep receivers after checking his run responsibilities first.

    He was leading the team in interceptions in training camp – but don’t forget Ahmad. Carroll was picking them off regularly in camp too. However, this did bode well when one considers the negative book on him coming out of college – where he was thought to have poor ball awareness, and was sloppy in switch offs in zone coverage’s.

    [​IMG]

    Marviel Underwood has worked very hard with trainers and made a strong recovery from reconstructive knee surgery in late August. Marviel should be ready to go by June and has to be considered in the mix for competing for a starting job.

    ======================================================
    Atari Bigby, a tough 5-11 and 210 lb Jamaican, came to GB hoping for a break after performing well in NFL-E, instead he broke his hand early in camp. His tenacity and toughness played through, first on the developmental squad and then on the roster in week 10 where he made a name for himself in practice and on special teams.
    [​IMG]
    Atari has good size for a safety, but it is his elite speed that allows this Jamaican born defensive back to man up or run side line to side line. He is an eye-popping explosive hitter. If this hard nosed kid can stay healthy this 25 year old from Central Florida will compete for a roster spot, and perhaps for some serious playing time. Neither Tyrone Culver nor Mariel Underwood should get complacent with this physically talented, but raw kid pushing behind them.

    =========================================================
    Charlie Peprah was picked up off waivers from the Giants days before the regular season began. He had a solid career from a SEC school (Alabama), but was obviously not ready for prime time in 2006. Peprah uses his 5-11 200 lb frame well and is a strong physical tackler. He flies up-field to make tackles, but does not always use proper technique in wrapping up and staying on his feet.

    The biggest rap on Charlie is his inconsistency, which hinders his overall play. He can get over-aggressive at times in coverage, and in going for the knock-out hit rather breaking and tackling with solid technique.

    While probably the longest shot of the players listed to this point – his toughness, college pedigree and his hard work will keep him in the mix and at least get him a shot at competing for a roster spot in ‘07’. His off-season work, especially in the film rooms and OTA’s will go along way towards deciding whether he can develop some of his grass green talent.

    =======================================================
    Alvin NNabuife is a 6 foot 210 undrafted free agent from Southern Methodist where he was the team’s Defensive MVP as a junior. Alvin signed a futures contract with the Pack and I believe has been sent to NFL-E, and is probably little more than a camp body. But he will do his damned(ist) to prove critics like me wrong.
    =======================================================


    Since the release of Darren Sharper (maybe before), the Packers have had a need for improved play from the Safety positions. Safety has to be considered a position of need by Ted Thompson headed in to free agency and the ‘07’ draft. The cupboard is not empty, but it sure could use a solid starter to lineup next to the talented youngster Collins.
     
  2. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    Nice stuff.

    I really believe Marvel Underwood can become a legit player for us. Had he not got hurt, I believe he would've replaced Manuel in the starting lineup after Week 4.

    I also am liking Nick Collins for next year. We've been kind of waiting for a Safety to starting making plays since Sharper was released. Collins in my opinion has a bright future ahead of him.
     
  3. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    Thats what I have said. Don't sleep on Culver either.
     
  4. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Thanks porky!
     
  5. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    I'll pass on the open door and say how about :feedback: on the article.
     
  6. CaliforniaCheez

    CaliforniaCheez Cheesehead

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    The release of Roman was right before Underwood got hurt(I still think a pick could have been obtained for Roman).

    You don't know where the injuries are going to occur but the weird thing is they always seem to hit one position. 06 WR's and 05 RB's etc.

    Unlike what you may hear the Packers go into training camp with good players everywhere competing for jobs. Only Manuel got his by default.
    There is always an undrafted guy like Cole, Manning, or Hunter who makes the team and those who work their way up(Dendy).

    I would not be too worried about having too many good players at any one position(such as DT's). Ted can make last minute trades of excess before the final cuts(Morely, Johnson).
     
  7. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    You should be the GM of a team... :thumbsup:
     
  8. CaliforniaCheez

    CaliforniaCheez Cheesehead

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    Crystal Ball to know in advance when guys will get hurt....
     
  9. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    ??? Did you think that was something from my article?

    I am not sure where you are coming from?
     
  10. CaliforniaCheez

    CaliforniaCheez Cheesehead

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    Bruce I was kidding with Tromadz.
    BTW
    Peprah was a 5th round pick by the Giants well before Culver was selected. Once he becomes learned in(or confused by) Schottenhiemer's scheme he could jump ahead of Culver. It should be a good camp battle to watch for that roster spot.
     
  11. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Yeah I liked him coming out of college -- especially his toughness. My biggest problem with him is overagressiveness that can get him burned and that he lunges at tackles sometimes.

    But he was a playmaker in a Big Time Program. I had him rated ahead of Culver too, but was pleasantly surprised by what Culver brought to the table.

    Right on the Schottenhiemer comment.

    That was a HUGE factor in Roman's release. Roman and Rottenhiemer had bad blood from their '04' gig together -- his hire greatly affected the situation. I am not sure that Ted Thompson knew their history when he made the Manuel move, I suspect he wanted them to compete for the job with the loser providing solid Veteran depth.

    Oh well! Schottenheimer was Mike McCarthy's worst hire by a mile. He is an undermining, two-faced opportunist, who I would not trust for a second if I were the defensive coordinator or a player on this team. He lives off his brother's success's and is the NFL poster boy for nepotism.

    Some day I will tell you how I really feel about him in a less constrained way :rotflmao:
     
  12. CaliforniaCheez

    CaliforniaCheez Cheesehead

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    I still think McKenzie knew a little bit of what he was talking about being outraged over Schottenhiemer's first hire in 04.

    I heard (Jay Glazer reported) that Marty was fired for wanting to hire Kurt as DC to replace Wade Phillips. That would have been good for the Packers.
     
  13. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Thanks for another good article, Bruce. I agree with your takes on Collins and Manuel. You had Manuel figured out before I even knew who he was. One thing I might add is that if Manuel does not earn a spot in the starting lineup in training camp (and let's hope and pray he doesn't), he should be cut. There is no reason to have a guy that slow and with no upside on the team unless he is starting. Plus I think the demotion would give him a bad attitude, which is something this young team can do without.

    I hope Underwood pans out. I am more skeptical of Culver than most fans because even though he made a lot of plays in training camp he got burned a lot too.

    I had not heard that Manuel had a know-it-all attitude that rubbed Harris and Woodson the wrong way. Can you tell us where you heard that?
     
  14. kmac

    kmac Cheesehead

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    This was discussed this morning on "Mike and MIke in the morning" and I've got to say, I was pissed. That would have been the best thing that could happen to the Pack. Props to A.J. Smith for not hiring Kurt Shotty.
     
  15. Timmons

    Timmons Cheesehead

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    The article was excellent again Bruce, but you've outdone yourself with this paragraph. That was worth my getting out of bed today. :)
     
  16. warhawk

    warhawk Cheesehead

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    My hope is Underwood picks up where he left off and gets the nod. My guess is now that Landry ran a 4.35 forty he will be gone before we have a chance(some had him still around but that's more than likely changed).

    If that's the case I do not see another DB worthy of the 16th pick which means we either find a guy in a later round, sign a FA, or, hope Underwood is the athlete he appears to be.

    I do not believe we will spend a lot in FA on this position being we have some pretty heavy competition there.
     
  17. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

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    True. I really hope Underwood picks up where he left off. From what I've heard he was doing a helluva job and pushing Manuel.
     
  18. kmac

    kmac Cheesehead

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    Dude this thread is old as **** :lol:
     
  19. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

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    C'mon now that's just plain RUDE!

    **** has been around far longer than the internet!!
     

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