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Who Starts at Nickel Safety In Week One?

The Doctor goes in to perform an operation on Greg Little's shoulder.
The Doctor goes in to perform an operation on Greg Little's shoulder.

Over the past several weeks of training camp, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers have been rotating personnel all over the defensive backfield, trying to find someone who will step up and play like a starter at both the nickel safety and right cornerback positions. At corner, it seems that Jarrett Bush is gradually entrenching himself as the starter with Davon House out with his shoulder injury. However, the safety spot is much less clear, and it deserves one more look before the Packers' final preseason game kicks off tonight.

The candidates:

M.D. Jennings
The Doctor was tabbed as the likely starter early in camp, after Charlie Peprah's release. After all, he was the only one of the three candidates to spend all of last season on the active roster or take snaps at safety in the base defense. Plus, his work in OTAs and minicamp was applauded and gave him the early edge. Unfortunately, he has failed to solidify himself as a starter, with a rough performance in the first game against San Diego and inconsistent play in camp. Jennings has the most familiarity with the defense, but has struggled some in coverage, which was supposed to be his strong suit.

Jerron McMillian
The rookie out of Maine has played his best in run support, especially against Cleveland. He's got great tools, but is very raw after playing at the FCS level. However, Jersey Al pointed out today that Dom Capers has been trying him out at dime cornerback as well. If that were to stick, it would almost certainly be because Jennings wins the job and Capers wants to find a way to get him on the field.

Anthony Levine
After two years on the practice squad, Levine wasn't really expected to make much noise in camp. Instead, he's been getting some first team practice reps in the nickel over the past few weeks. Levine had a good performance against the Chargers to complement the Doctor's poor effort, but he's slipped back behind the other two and is a long shot to be the starter.

My money is still on Jennings to claim the job. Against the pass-heavy offenses of today's NFL, coverage and ball skills are a premium in the defensive backfield, and Jennings is the best deep safety of the three. Sure, run support is nice, but considering this is the starting safety in the nickel package, most of the starter's reps will be coming in passing downs anyhow. Jennings is the best choice at this point to help Tramon WIlliams keep Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall in check, and I expect that to be the deciding factor in the Doctor's favor.

Now that I've projected Jennings as the starter, you just watch: he'll go out and stink it up tonight and McMillian will look like an All-Pro. Let's all hope that everybody looks good and makes this a very tough decision for the coaching staff for a good reason.


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