Packers could struggle to replace Burnett

Posted Oct. 04, 2010 @ 5:11 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

With their secondary already decimated by injuries to a host of key players, the Packers could ill-afford the loss of rookie SS Morgan Burnett, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Green Bay's nerve-wracking 28-26 victory over the Lions.

Tests on Monday confirmed the 2010 third-round draft pick's tear in his ACL. The Packers currently don't have much of a safety valve without Burnett, who daily team observers believe was making steady progress as the starting strong safety, even though he was struggling mightily before his injury Sunday, having problems dealing with Lions star WR Calvin Johnson.

With veteran Atari Bigby, the team's starting strong safety the past three years, not eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform List until Oct. 18, the Packers' only fully healthy safeties at present are starting FS Nick Collins and Derrick Martin, whose strong suit is more as a special-teamer. The best bet to replace Burnett beginning this Sunday against the Redskins is veteran backup Charlie Peprah, who has missed the past two games with a quad injury but is expected to be healthy enough to resume playing in Week Five.

The PFW Spin

Martin replaced Burnett against the Lions, but the consensus is that the team would be better off with Martin concentrating on his key special-team role. Peprah has better size than Martin and is a smart player probably a little better equipped to handle the nuances of defensive coordinator Dom Capers' complex system.

Bigby, who has been recovering from ankle surgery, is saying that he should be ready right away to resume playing when he comes off the PUP list, but it's not like he can be considered an immediate upgrade over Burnett. In the meantime, the Packers' pass defense has had to contend with other injuries to veteran starting CB Al Harris, who is recovering from a severe ACL injury, rookie nickel corner Sam Shields (hamstring) and LB Brandon Chillar (shoulder), who is considered the team's top linebacker in coverage. Green Bay's pass defense had its problems against the Lions, as Detroit gained a whopping 431 yards, 308 of which came through the air, and continually moved the chains with wide-open screen passes in the underneath area.

It's conceivable the team could go with star CB Charles Woodson at strong safety, but that's something one would think it would rather avoid. If there's any good news, the early word is that Burnett, who is considered to have a bright future, should make a full recovery. But that doesn't help the Packers this season.