With Charles Woodson sidelined for six weeks with a broken collarbone, it’s time for the Green Bay Packers’ philosophy of “next man up” to take hold once again.
Who will that next man be?
Woodson is the only safety on Green Bay's roster to have played more than three years, and if you take away the other starting safety, Morgan Burnett, all that’s left at the position is two rookies and one second-year player. Two of those three were also undrafted.
Needless to say, the substitute will be put in a difficult situation, no matter who it is.
Here are the possible replacements for Woodson, ranking from worst option to best.
Richardson was one of the surprises of training camp, making the team as an undrafted free agent.
The Packers have made very good use of undrafted free agents. Tramon Williams, John Kuhn, Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields and Evan Dietrich-Smith are a few that come to mind.
Richardson very well could join their ranks, but I don’t think he’s ready quite yet. He’s only played in one game so far this year, and a hamstring injury kept him out of a lot of practice early in the season.
His time may come eventually, but not now.
For this scenario to happen, either Shields would have to come back from his shin/ankle injury, or Davon House would have to start opposite Williams, since Hayward started as the No. 2 cornerback in St. Louis.
Hayward starting at safety would be a little bit of a stretch since he is indeed a rookie cornerback. But if any corner were to do it, it would have to be him.
Ted Thompson raved on Hayward’s ball-hawking ability when he picked him in the second round of this year’s draft, and Mike McCarthy has recently echoed Thompson’s feelings.
The concern for Hayward would be his run support and blitzing ability. He is clearly a huge step down from Woodson’s abilities, but then again, just about everyone is.
M.D. Jennings is another safety signed by Green Bay after going undrafted, but he’ s had the luxury of spending a year developing his skills in practice and on special teams.
He’s already started once this year, and his production has been impressive the last two games: 12 total tackles, 10 of which were solo.
And, of course, he should have an interception on the season. But instead, Golden Tate has an extra touchdown reception, and Green Bay has three losses instead of two.
I’m 100 percent in the Jerron McMillian bandwagon. If there is one, at least. If not, I’m making one right now.
McMillian is almost the perfect replacement for Woodson. He’s terrific in run support, always hovering around the line of scrimmage looking to pop the opposing running back for a loss of yards. His superb tackling is a huge need for this Green Bay defense, as it suffered greatly from missed tackles numerous times in 2011.
McMillian is also a great blitzer. He hasn’t been given many opportunities to chase down the quarterback, but he’s pressured the pocket multiple times when given the chance.
If he has a weakness, it would be pass coverage. Still, he’s a bit of a ball hawk. He’s already got one interception, and he would have another if not for a bogus roughing-the-passer call on Erik Walden back in that ugly Seattle game.
McMillian is like a Woodson Mini-Me. He’s still pretty raw and has room to improve, but who better to replace Woodson than his clone?