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

The Yin and Yang of CB Play: Opposites Make an Impressive Wh

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Feb 27, 2007.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    The Yin and Yang of CB Play: Opposites Make an Impressive Whole

    Part XI of positional analysis series - the CB's…

    Al Harris and Charles Woodson both had outstanding seasons in 2006.

    Al Harris not being picked for the Pro Bowl was criminal, and an argument can be made that it was a full fledged crime spree when his teammate Woodson was passed over too. When a pair of cornerbacks on a team only give up 4 TD passes between them, one of them leads the conference in interceptions and the other is lavished with praise by the top receivers in the game as he shuts them out game after game, and neither one of them makes the Pro Bowl - it is time to start recognizing the Pro Bowl for what it is - a JOKE.

    It is not a stretch to declare that over the second half of the 2006 season there was no better pair of Corners in the NFL than Al Harris and Charles Woodson. This bodes well for the Packers heading into the 2007 campaign, but it does not mean this is a position without question or without needs.

    Let's get started…
    [​IMG]

    Al Harris is perhaps the best press cornerback in the NFL, at least according to a large number of elite starting wide receivers in the league, including:

    • Cincinnati's Chad Johnson, who called Al the best cornerbacks in the NFC in '05 & again in '06;
    • NO/Phil/FA Donte Stallworth (whom Harris held to 1 catch for 6 yards in the game against N.O.);
    • Detroit's Roy Williams, who came into his match-up with Al 1st in the NFC in receiving yards and left with a single catch for 11 yards - before and after the game Roy declared Harris the BEST CB in the NFL…

    … just to name a few the talented receivers who recognize Al Harris's outstanding skills.

    Al Harris is blessed with natural length at 6-1 and long arms that help him reach and play bump and run coverage, allowing him to get in receivers' faces, disrupt their patterns and frustrate the hell out of receivers and Quarterbacks around the league.

    Al is also quite strong.. Despite only weighing 186 lbs, Harris is cut like a much bigger man and has surprising strength (225 lbs 22X) that he uses extremely well in press coverage to control receivers (including those much bigger than he is) at the line of scrimmage.

    Al is a master technician who works diligently on his game year round, which of course played a huge role in him emerging as the Packers' top CB and among the top dozen corner backs in the league over the last few seasons. Harris is an intense competitor (on and off the field), which makes him an outstanding role model to the young defensive backs currently on Green Bay roster and those likely to be added while Harris wears green and gold.

    When former defensive coordinator Bates was hired he proclaimed his respect and admiration of Al Harris not just because Harris works so hard, but largely because Al's game fit Bates' scheme perfectly (which is the same scheme used by the current defensive coordinator Sanders).

    "He's good. He's real good," Bates said of Harris. "As far as guys I've been around in this bump coverage now for years, he's right in there as good as any of them - except of course Deion." At least according to Bates, who knows a thing or two about what it takes to play CB in the NFL, as he has taught and coached some great ones including: Deion Sanders, Pat Surtain, Sam Madison and Kevin Smith.

    The downside of Al is his age. At 32 years old Al is not exactly on the upside on his career, and while Harris uses his length strength, angles, body control, intelligence and experience to be one of the best bump-and-run cornerbacks in the league, he is not particularly fast and can be exposed in zone coverages. Al is and always will be less flashy that his teammate Charles Woodson, mostly because he lacks the natural athleticism and the gambling style that would draw attention to himself and allow him to rack up interceptions in garbage time.

    Instead, Al quietly goes about his business and does it very well. Harris has gotten every dollar he has ever made and every minute of playing time the old fashioned way - he's earned it!

    It is especially noteworthy that Harris only gave up one touchdown pass on the '06 season - unbelievable for a guy who drew the top receiver week in and week out over the course of the season.

    However, it was not a season without blemishes. Early in the season, when confusion seemed to be the order of business on the Packers' defense, Al's game suffered some too. For example, Harris allowed only 5 ½ plays of 20 or more yards for the season (very good for an NFL CB), but of those only 1 ½ came in the last 10 games of the season. Al Harris, as sure a tackler as there is playing CB in the NFL, was even missing tackles early in the season, but take note of the talent displayed by him not missing a single tackle after the 6th game of the season.

    [​IMG]

    Recently Ted Thompson decided to reward Al's past, present and future value to the team by extending Al's contract, and in the process eliminated any lingering distractions related to value and fairness in the defensive secondary. By doing so, TT has secured the corners on the Packers' defense for the present and near future. But don't miss the subtle contributions Harris makes to the long range future too. One of the young defensive backs once said of Harris:

    "He (Harris) shows you how to be consistent and shows you how a professional comes to work every day, basically, how to do things right. If there was a guy where you said, 'I want my game to be like his,' it would be Al Harris. He's definitely the model and the mode to follow."

    Mike McCarthy does not hesitate to give props to Harris, "To take teams' top weapon on offense and shut them down… his performance was awesome."

    For Al's teammate Charles Woodson, 2006 was a tale of two seasons.

    In the first season (8 games) Charles struggled mightily; giving up 6 ½ plays of 20 or more yards and being embarassed by a very mediocre Mike Furrey, who burned him over and over from the slot in Detroit. It was the low point of the season and it almost looked like Charles Woodson was doing a Roberto Duran "no mas" imitation.

    But then came the 2nd season after game 8 of '06, when Woodson started playing like the former Pro-bowler he is. Charles started making plays, including most of his NFC - leading 8 interceptions. Just as suddenly, opponent big plays disappeared, with Woodson only giving up 1 ½ plays of 20 or more yards in this resurgence. And like Harris, Woodson returned as the sure-tackling CB for which he has always been known, despite playing with a shoulder injury.

    [​IMG]

    Woodson has always played with flash, and once he got going '06 was no exception. Woodson was involved in 12 turnover plays, the most since LeRoy Butler. In the process Charles silenced the critics who were declaring that Ted Thompson had reached and overpaid (almost $11 million) for Woodson, by finished with 12 turnover plays, the most by any Packer DB since LeRoy Butler.

    Where Harris is a master of press coverage, Woodson is the master of finding the ball. He excels in zone coverage, covering in the slot and knowing how to play the ball.

    Despite a rash of injuries in recent years and not exactly the strongest work ethic, Woodson showed his natural athleticism by breaking to the ball quickly and making plays when he got there. He also demonstrated the ability to recover when receivers would get a step or two of separation - something most CBs cannot do. Further, while he is no Al Harris in press coverage, he is not weak at it either. He can get in a receiver's face and press, and should be even better once his shoulder is fully recovered.

    Woodson also contributed by being the team's primary punt return man, where he showed good hands, solid judgment and some surprising suddenness at times.

    Charles is a phenomenal athlete, but his game is not without flaws. His gambling can be burned, especially if there is any kind of breakdown in communication in the secondary. He also does not always give 100% effort when he does not think he can make the play. This casualness extends to practices and working out too - face it, Woodson and work outs should probably not be used in the same paragraph let alone sentence. He also has never been a guy to stay late at practice or to participate in anything that is not absolutely mandatory.

    [​IMG]

    However, Charles is a play-maker. Where most defenders are moved to defense early in their careers because they lack the hands to be a playmaker on offense, Charles has soft hands and instinctive ball skills that would fit well on an offense, but are extraordinary for a defender.

    These two talented veterans (Harris & Woodson) are the perfect complement for each other's game. Al's willingness to do the dirty work and lock down and frustrate opponents' best receivers, plays perfectly into Charles' natural ball hawking and play- making skills. Put a competent Strong Safety behind them and they could really be something special. As is, they are as good a CB tandem as there is in the NFC - proving once again that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    However, as solid as these two are as starters, the team's depth behind them is a huge question mark. Of course, finding competent cornerbacks in the NFL is perhaps the most difficult job scouts and front offices face in Professional football, but fans of every team seem to believe that theirs is the only team who cannot find competent depth.

    Of the backups, the player with the least amount of natural physical talent, Dendy is the one who grabbed the job of nickel back after Ahmad Carroll was released in week 5 or the '06 season.

    Patrick Dendy, 6' 190 lbs, was steady, but unspectacular in that role as the nickel DB for the Packers.

    [​IMG]

    Dendy's 3 interceptions were impressive and timely, but perhaps most relieving for Packer fans was the fact that he handled the job while only drawing one penalty all season long. Equally important to the defense was the fact that teammates could count on Dendy to be where he was supposed to be - he studies hard and plays assignment sure for a young undrafted free agent corner.

    Coordinators attacked Dendy - who can blame them with Harris and Woodson being the alternatives? And while he did give up 2 ½ touchdowns and 5 plays of 20 or more yards, he never backed down. He was also a fundamentally sound tackler, not a guy who delivers the big blow, but one who missed only 4 tackles on the season.

    He has more talent and playing skills than most fans and writers want to give him credit for, but of the backups he does have the least natural physical ability and speed. A year of experience will not hurt this battler, but I admit I would rather seem him as the 4th or 5th corner rather than the teams' top reserve.

    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.

    [​IMG]

    What Jarrett did provide was the kind of Kamikaze special team player that 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.

    The biggest tease at this position is the 6' 202 lb 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.

    [​IMG]

    There is no questioning Will Blackmon's athletic ability, but 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.

    As with Jarrett Bush, the raw material is there with Blackmon. The ability of the coaching staff to develop these guys' natural athletic ability will be put to the test. Given that Marty Schottenheimer's dumber brother Kurt is the DB position coach, thank God, Lionel Washington is there for the cornerbacks.

    While the Packers are well tooled at starting CB's, they lack depth and are undermanned for their nickel and dime packages. And while Bush and Blackmon both possess raw ability, the Packers, like most teams in the NFL will be looking to upgrade their depth at the corners either through the draft and/or free agency in 2007.
     
  2. gopackgo

    gopackgo Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2006
    Messages:
    730
    Ratings:
    +0
    Re: The Yin and Yang of CB Play: Opposites Make an Impressiv

    Yet another insightful article. Do you write for someone?

    I have high hopes for our D next season, and the CB's are a big part of it. Out of the bottom three, hopefully one can step up to become a solid #3. I have a good feeling about Al and I hope Woodson can keep that second half of the season going. I am assuming those 1/2 plays are those where the coverage of the CB and the S broke down, but I would say the main fault would be the S.

    Harris and Woodson are great CB's to learn from for these younger guys. Hopefully Blackmon doesn't break anything this pre-season, I would like to see what he is capable of.
     
  3. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    Messages:
    1,000
    Ratings:
    +3
    Bruce shoulda titled this article "The Awesomeness That Is Patrick Dendy...and those other guys are ok too..."
     
  4. CaliforniaCheez

    CaliforniaCheez Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2005
    Messages:
    2,486
    Ratings:
    +0
    There has to be a good nickname for Mr. Dendy.

    Doomsday Dendy
    Dynomite Dendy
    Pulverizing Pat
    Pounding Pat
    PD- Pass Defender, Prized Defender, Punk Destroyer,
    Stealth Interceptor

    Any ideas on a deserving monicker Mr. Dendy?
     
  5. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    Re: The Yin and Yang of CB Play: Opposites Make an Impressiv

    Yeah, I wrote this for the front page of Packers Chatters.

    I agree! And yes, 1/2 are where the breakdown was also involving the safety.

    Me too! I think a healthy Blackmon should win the nickel back position hands down.
     
  6. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    Is that the best you've got Trom?
     
  7. Raider Pride

    Raider Pride Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Messages:
    1,868
    Ratings:
    +2
    I beg to differ...

    I like the title "The Yin and Yang of CB Play"

    I have enjoyed all of your essays in this series. Good stuff for a forum, and what I mean by that is one does not find such well thought out and researched threads in most forums. Well done.

    Question on this one though? Because I was waiting for it at the end of your article based on the Headline?

    Who is the Water/Earth and who is the Fire/Wind?

    Raider Pride
     
  8. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    Al (Water/Earth) Harris and Charles (Fire/Wind) Woodson of course :thumbsup:

    Hope you are well my friend.
     
  9. Raider Pride

    Raider Pride Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2005
    Messages:
    1,868
    Ratings:
    +2
    That is exactly my take on it.

    Great stuff.... You have a talented pen Sir.

    Raider Pride.
     
  10. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

    Joined:
    May 31, 2005
    Messages:
    2,856
    Ratings:
    +0
    Thanks, Bruce. I especially liked the part about how Harris and Woodson complement each other, with Harris locking down the best receiver and Woodson making plays.

    I didn't expect Harris to make the Pro Bowl because he didn't have many interceptions, but you are right, he should've been there. I think the one he dropped in the Rams game literally cost him a Pro Bowl appearance. He would've taken that one to the house and the Packers probably then would've won that game.
     
  11. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2006
    Messages:
    4,576
    Ratings:
    +652
    Another great article Bruce. You know, there's nothing that i enjoy more in the morning than sitting down and reading one of your articles while i should be catching up on readings for my classes. Once again, my favorite parts are how you focus nearly the same amount of attention on each capsule. It's great to read some in depth research about our back-ups. Most people would focus most of their attention on the starters. Thanks Bruce.
     
  12. Timmons

    Timmons Cheesehead

    Joined:
    May 8, 2006
    Messages:
    623
    Ratings:
    +1
    Good stuff Bruce. I appreciate the effort put forth. Thanks for taking a shot at Stinkenheimer too!
     
  13. warhawk

    warhawk Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Messages:
    1,922
    Ratings:
    +38
    Many predicted Woodson to have a good year because of Harris.

    If teams wouldn't have been able to game plan the middle and deep pass so much both Harris and Woodson's year would have been even better.

    All you had to do was watch the Saints to appreciate how well Dendy really did coming in for Carroll. Teams found that weak corner spot and killed New Orleans with pass after pass.

    That could have easily been us and not that they didn't try but Dendy proved capable enough to keep an onslaught off of him. There's a moderate amount of love there and he deserves more.
     
  14. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2005
    Messages:
    1,078
    Ratings:
    +0
    :rubeyes: Damned by Trom for too much praise, nicked by warhawk for too little. :shrug:

    I guess when you get more than 1200 hits and only 12 responses one should expect anything. :cool:
     
  15. Zombieslayer

    Zombieslayer Cheesehead

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2006
    Messages:
    4,338
    Ratings:
    +0
    Bruce - Once again, a fine article, and something I just don't expect to read on a forum. Your effort is appreciated greatly.

    Now, for our CB situation, it's a weird thing about the NFL that it is so complex that we have the best CB duo on the league, so opposing teams simply go after us with 3 WR packages and attack our #3 guy.

    I agree we need to look for depth. You could never have too many corners. And you got a chuckle out of me by what you called Kurt. That guy needs to go.
     

Share This Page