The very first time my older son strapped on football pads to practice, I figured there was a 50/50 chance he'd take a hit, walk back and tell me, "Hell no."
Instead, when they took a water break, he came over, pulled off his helmet and said, "Dad—I like to hit things."
When it comes to football, you have to like contact.
Rookie Jeron McMillian doesn't like contact.
He loves it.
Maybe it seems like it should be an obvious thing, but really, not every safety loves to hit (or to expand it, not every player).
Not only does McMillian love it—he won a job because of his love of it.
However McMillian not only hits, he shows a very good instinct for where to hit.
His two tackles on former Packer Brandon Jackson were perfectly timed and devastating to his forward progress, as well as—and this is critical—good tackling technique.
Now, it's not a good idea to go too far overboard based on one preseason game, right? After all, McMillian whiffed a pair of tackles last week.
That said, McMillian was determined to not allow that to happen again and applied himself to improve.
As he said to Weston Hodkiewicz at the Green Bay Press-Gazette:
“From my showing last week, I think I just wanted to improve and make sure I got better from what I did last week,” McMillian said. “In San Diego, I had to get my feet wet and get the feeling for how everything goes. From last week, I think I improved. I still have more room to improve, too.”
Yes, M.D. Jennings has been working with the first team most of the preseason. However he lacks the physicality that McMillian has, something the Packers as a whole struggled with last season.
Tackling was also an issue, and the rookie from Maine has begun to show he can combine big hits with good tackles.
There is nothing more aggravating than watching bad tackling. Maybe bad tackling where the player goes for a giant-sized SportsCenter hit and either bounces off or misses entirely.
So if McMillian can't tackle, the big hits don't matter. If he regresses to where he was against Cincinnati, he won't keep a starting job.
Thursday night was a step toward something I have been waiting for since the draft. While I think Jennings is a great story, and I hope he sees plenty of time this season because he is talented, McMillian has the combination the Packers need of technique and a desire to hit.
If he doesn't win the job outright, I expect him to clobber his way to the starting safety gig opposite Morgan Burnett in short order, leaving plenty of bruises in his wake.