After his performance in the NFC Championship game, he is simple to list on here. But before the season, the Packers defensive backfield appeared to be in bad shape. With Al Harris out, there was Woodson and Tramon Williams and no one else.
It looked like the Packers were going to be totally at the mercy of any team with a decent slot receiver or who could put three NFL quality receivers on the field at the same time. This was the case in 2009, as the Packers were torn apart several times by teams that could spread the ball around or who had a big presence in middle of the field.
The playoff game against Arizona and the game against Pittsburgh are the best examples of this. As for myself, I cringed at the thought of having to depend on Jarrett Bush or some rookie who was a receiver two years ago to be the No. 3 defensive back that is so needed in the modern NFL game. I hoped that the Packers could just hang on until midseason and maybe Harris could return for the stretch run.
Little did I know that the rookie, who was a receiver so shortly before, would turn out to be the answer to Dom Capers' wildest dreams. Early in the year Sam Shields looked like the inexperienced rookie he was, and his inability to field punts and kickoffs in the preseason were leading to numerous jokes.
But his speed and instincts were undeniable. The defensive coaches sincerely believed he could cover NFL receivers and put him out there to learn how to do it. As the season progressed, he began to get more and more responsibilities.
By the end of the year, he was being sent out one on one to guard speedy and dangerous receivers. This allowed the Packers to start to scheme and send Woodson all over the field. The rise of Shields as a viable cover man is one of the factors that has led to the Packers defense being so successful (along with an inside pass rush and the presence of Matthews and Woodson). The blitzing from all over the place is, I think, directly related to the Packers having not one, not two, but three reliable one-on-one cover men in the backfield.