When the Packers drafted Morgan Burnett in the third round of the 2010 draft, he was touted as a ball-hawking safety.
In three seasons at Georgia Tech, he intercepted 14 passes.
So naturally, the Packers believed his skills would suit the free safety position, where he could roam the deep secondary and makes plays on deep balls through the air.
But pressed into a different role after strong safety Charles Woodson broke his collarbone two weeks ago, Burnett showed he’s more than just a centerfielder. In last Sunday’s win over Jacksonville, Burnett moved up and played closer to the line of scrimmage, especially in the base package, and made 11 tackles (including nine solo stops), had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“I think he had a chip on his shoulder when people were saying he wasn’t physical enough, and that he’s more of a free safety as opposed to a strong safety,” Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said this past week. “I think he wanted to try to prove to some people that, ‘Hey, I can get in there and mix it up and be that linebacker-hybrid type of a player if need be in this season.’”
When the Packers lost Woodson, defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn’t hesitate to change Burnett’s role.
“I think you saw him play one of his best football games since he’s been here,” Capers said. “I think what you saw (last) Sunday was his ability to play the run up in there. His size showed up. You saw his ability to blitz. He can break on the ball and cover ground back there. I’m very encouraged by Morgan and like the role that we have him playing.”
The soft-spoken Burnett did something else Woodson used to do: he showed his emotion and energy.
“I think he was probably a little more energetic, a little more vocal,” Perry said. “We talked about guys stepping up and increasing their productivity now that we have Woodson out of there. I think he felt the need to be a little more active verbally and physically on the field in trying to be the guy to step up his game.”