It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look back on the Green Bay Packers' 2011 season and identify the obvious reasons for their defensive collapse.
Cullen Jenkins was sorely missed at right defensive end, little to no production was received from outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and Nick Collins' season-ending neck injury handicapped the back end.
But one factor that gets overlooked is just how poor the tackling was for the Packers defense, especially in the secondary.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus effectively laid out just how bad it was for the Packers secondary in 2011.
According to the site, which reviews and grades every single play for every single player, the Packers' trio of cornerbacks—Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields—was the worst tackling cornerback trio in the NFL.
And it wasn't even close.
Woodson missed 15 tackles on 87 attempts, Williams missed 16 on 80 attempts and Shields missed 10 on 40 attempts. Altogether, the three missed 41 tackles in 2011—a number that ranks them significantly above any other cornerback trio in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles were the first team that came to mind to compare, but their trio of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie only missed 27 tackles last season.
Woodson has always been a player that missed his fair share of tackles, mostly because his fearlessness of playing near the line of scrimmage. Still, his 16 came at a higher rate than the 14 he had in 2010 in 20 games and the nine he missed during his Defensive Player of the Year season in 2009.
Williams allowed 68 catches in 2011, so his opportunities for missed tackles were obviously increased. During 2010, a year in which Williams established himself as a top-flight cover corner, he missed just nine. A shoulder injury suffered in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints certainly had an impact on how physical Williams was both in coverage and as a tackler.
Shields is the most worrisome case, and you didn't need the numbers to tell you how poorly he tackled last season. He consistently showed poor technique and effort as a tackler in 2011.
Maybe that's to be expected from a guy still learning the position, but Shields has a long ways to go. His regression from 2010 to 2011 was enough to make you wonder what kind of future he really has at the position.
Overall, tackling in the secondary was a factor in why the Packers defense allowed passing yards at a historic rate in 2011. There was no pass-rush to help the secondary, and once passes were complete, receivers and tight ends chewed up more yards than they should have because of poor tackling among the cornerbacks.
Tackling can be improved and sharpened with coaching, and it is now cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt's job to improve that area leading into next season. An awful showing like 2011 can't be accepted.