What could be better for the Packer defense than having a Rookie of The Year contender in 2009?
Having another rookie step up in 2010, of course, and that’s just what the team hopes will become of safety Morgan Burnett.
The third-round pick out of Georgia Tech has been getting practice time with the first-team defense in the team’s OTAs, which is crucial if he wants to make an impact this season.
The impact the team hopes Burnett can make relies on how well he can grasp the 3-4 defensive scheme, which relies heavily on communication from the safety position.
The Packers are in their second season running the 3-4, so many of the veteran players have the scheme down pat and it is up to rookies like Burnett to grasp the formation and go out and play.
Atari Bigby, the Packers’ strong safety last season, was getting late-season praise for his accomplishments but Bigby is yet to sign his restricted free agent tender.
Bigby’s absence, combined with Derrick Martin’s recovery from ankle surgery, has paved the way for Burnett to get reps with the first team.
Although it’s easy to say that the only reason he’s getting first-team reps is because there’s nobody else around to fill the gap, the fact that the Packers traded up 15 spots to draft Burnett says that they want him to be a part of the gameplan.
If the Packers can have Burnett and Pro Bowler Nick Collins backing up the front seven, the defense could have another shot at being one of the league’s top units.
With a linebacker corp including Nick Barnett and Clay Matthews and one of the league’s most skilled cornerback tandems, playmakers at the safety positions could be just what it takes to keep the defense solid.
Part of the reason why the Packers’ D was so successful was the fact that they led the league in interceptions, and Burnett could easily keep the picks coming after tallying 14 in three college seasons.
Although Burnett has proven he can cause turnovers, his tackling ability is still up in the air since the OTAs aren’t full contact.
With hard-hitting safeties like Ed Reed, Darren Sharper and Troy Polamalu being key parts of their respective defenses, Burnett's ability to take out receivers in the middle of the field could be huge for the Packers.
If we want to know how well Burnett can hit, as well as how effective he could be alongside Collins, we will just have to wait and see.