GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 20: Charles Woodson #21 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with teammate Clay Matthews #52 after Woodson sacked Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 20,2011 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Before you get angry at me, look at the title of this series. This isn't a projection of the Green Bay Packers players most likely to experience a very high rate of regression, but just the players most likely to experience some regression. No one expects Charles Woodson to have a poor season, but it would be absolutely stunning if he didn't take a small step backwards. He's 35-years-old and made his NFL debut in 1998. There are probably people who read this blog who were born in 1988.
Woodson was extremely effective in 2011, but we began to see signs that he can't physically stick with elite receivers one-on-one anymore, especially on the outside. He's going to play a lot of safety and slot corner in 2012, and probably less total snaps.
Charles Woodson's stats in 2011: 63 tackles, 7 interceptions, 17 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble - The fact that the Packers defense couldn't stop anyone led to a lot of snaps against, which might have inflated Woodson's numbers a bit, but seven picks and 17 passes defensed is very impressive for anyone. In what was supposed to be a breakout year for Sam Shields, in which Woodson's role was expected to be changed (if not diminished), the defense ended up leaning on him over and over again, and he came up big on a number of occasions.
Why I might be full of it - Because Woodson experienced less of a drop-off in 2011 than I thought he would. Additionally, if he's covering top players in man less often and sitting back in zone more than he did previously, he might end up getting more opportunities for easy interceptions. Less balls are going to be thrown his way, but when they are thrown his way, he'll probably be in position to make a big play.
Projected stats for Woodson in 2012: 55 tackles, 4 interceptions, 10 passes defensed - Expect a lot less balls to be thrown in the general direction of Woodson, and as a result, less picks and passes defensed. He'll still be a key contributor to the defense and I expect Woodson to have a very good season, but there's no way he's going to be as big a part of the defense as he was in 2011, and not much of a chance he'll duplicate those interception and passes defensed numbers.