Earlier this week, a few writers here at Acme Packing Company were thinking back on the greatness of some of the Green Bay Packers’ recent defensive backs. The discussion turned to wondering how many times during regular season games these players actually touched the football — either via interception, pass breakup, forced fumble, or fumble recovery.
When turning to Pro Football Reference for data, however, I found that pass defenses — which consists of breakups plus interceptions — have only been tabulated since the 1999 season. Still, that gives us the full careers of several great Packers DBs to examine and compare.
One might expect Charles Woodson to be the leader in this defensive touches category, when considering the time scale on the useful numbers. He certainly is near the top, but he comes up just a bit short of the number one spot.
Woodson arrived in Green Bay for the 2006 season after practically being an afterthought in Oakland the year before. Despite an All-Pro season in 1999, Woodson did not make a Pro Bowl in his final four campaigns for the Raiders. However, despite just six picks in those four years, Woodson eclipsed that in his very first season with the Packers.
All told, 2006 saw Woodson record his largest number of defensive touches of the football of any season as a Packer. He intercepted eight passes, broke up 12 more, forced three fumbles, and recovered one for a total of 24. He would nearly match that number in 2009, recording 23 total that season en route to Defensive Player of the Year honors.
All told, Woodson recorded 120 defensive touches on the football in his seven Packers seasons. Here’s a look at how that breaks down:
Woodson Defensive Touches
Interestingly, Woodson touched the ball more in seven years with the Packers than he did in 11 years in Oakland. There, he had 27 picks, 24 pass breakups, 18 forced fumbles, and 12 recoveries for a total of 113. (Note that there were no pass breakup numbers for his rookie season of 1998).
However, as noted earlier, Woodson is not the career leader in defensive touches Packers history. That title belongs to Tramon Williams, whose 131 touches surpass even Chuck’s. He did not set that mark in his return to Green Bay in 2018, either; he already took the lead before he left in the 2014 season, at the time his eighth year with the team.
In fact, Williams even matched Woodson’s single-season-high of 24, reaching that point in the 2010 season as the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. Here is a look at Williams’ totals:
Williams Defensive Touches
Williams sits alone at the top of this leaderboard. Here is the rest of the top ten, and remember that data for all categories is only available back to 1999. One other interesting note is that Al Harris holds the team single-season record in pass breakups with 19, a number he recorded in 2004.
- Tramon Williams: 131
- Charles Woodson: 120
- Darren Sharper: 99*
- Al Harris: 90
- Nick Collins: 78
- Mike McKenzie: 74
- Sam Shields: 69
- Morgan Burnett: 62
- Clay Matthews: 61
- Tyrone Williams: 49*
* Player was active prior to PDs being tracked in 1999.