Forgive me, but I keep flashing back to 2009. Much like the case with the offensive recap, the defensive recap just keeps me reminding me of that season. In 2009 the Packers were coming off a terrible year defensively and as a result drastic measures were taken. The defense had a pretty good year overall that year, being effective at stopping the run but struggling to stop higher end passing attacks. This past offseason drastic measure were taken once again, namely a large influx of talent from the draft, and those moves are paying early returns. The question is now whether the defense can hold up after facing the rather weak offenses of the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, and Seattle Seahawks.
The last two weeks Dom Capers has decided to roll the dice with rookie contributors after the failure of M.D. Jennings and Jarrett Bush to lock things down in week 1. Since then Jerron McMillian has taken the starting safety spot and Casey Hayward has gotten more reps at corner. In addition to those two Jerel Worthy has taken snaps from C.J. Wilson and Mike Daniels has gotten more rotational snaps as well in passing situations. The only rookie to decrease in snaps the past two weeks has been Nick Perry who has been dealing with a wrist injury. It should be noted though that Perry has still been able to play at a high level, pressure the passer, and register his first sack this past week.
All in all the rookie defenders have worked out very well. Worthy, Daniels, and Perry have all gotten their first sack under their belts, and more important their presence has opened up more one on one opportunities for Clay Matthews. Casey Hayward has held up well in coverage. He has not quite displayed his superior ball skills yet, with the exception of one close pick six week 1, but he has consistently shadowed his man and broken up the passes that have come his way. The most impressive rookie though has been McMillian. McMillian has shown a nose for the ball and ability to bring the wood when needed. All in all he has been a great addition at safety and his high level of play so far has helped Morgan Burnett step up his level of play too....or at least it does not expose Burnett in the same way Charlie Peprah or Jennings did when they were back there next to Burnett.
Now the rookie defenders have been fantastic, and are probably the main story of the defense putting together back to back impressive games, but I would be remiss without highlighting a couple of the veterans who have also stepped up their game. Earlier in the week I talked about the great game that A.J. Hawk played. I won't bore all of you again with singing his praises again, but I do want to highlight him so that his reputation around this site slowly changes. Hawk was critical to limiting the Seahawk offense for most of the game. He played with an attitude and ferocity that I have not seen out of Hawk in all his previous years in Green Bay. If he can keep that up he might even start to look like the player we all thought he would be after getting drafted so high in the draft.
Another vet to point out is Sam Shields. Again, Shields got pretty high praises in the MVP of the week post, but I would regret not pointing out what a turnaround he has had here as well. At the beginning of the year I had my doubts about what sort of player Shields would turn into. He was a player who didn't seem interested in tackling and was struggling in his man to man coverage. This all changed when he got back from injury late in the preseason, and this past week he put on an absolute show at what sort of corner he is becoming....and let me tell you it's a good one. He is tackling with attitude and shadowing his receiver.
The last vet to point out is one who is doing his job silently, but very well....it's also a player who so many seem to run out of town for reasons just beyond me. I'm talking about Ryan Pickett. Pickett is getting up there in age and as such seems to be falling into a specific role, namely stopping the run, but this is a role that he is doing very well. Picket is holding his point of attack and got his hands on Lynch more than once against the Seahawks. If he can keep this up then the Packers d-line will have a pretty good rotation with B.J. Raji, Pickett, Worthy, and Daniels.....Wilson and Philip Merling can also contribute when needed.
Special Teams Review
I miss Jon Ryan. For as much as people love to get angry about the cutting of Cullen Jenkins, the Jenkins cut I get and still get to this day...and as a result will never be my worst TT cut ever. No, that goes to Jon Ryan. Ryan was a great punter who was brought in without contest and then inexplicably cut right before the season. Do you know what Ryan did after that? He went to Seattle and was basically awesome for years (years people!) while the Packers struggled to find a punter. Now I love me some Tim Masthay, and he did a pretty good job last Monday, but Ryan was phenomenal. Whenever I watch him play great games against the Packers I always just wonder what could have been......