Packers DBs still face uncertainty

Associated Press Modified: September 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm •  Published: September 3, 2012
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — While the coaching staff may have decided who'll play where, the players in the Green Bay Packers' still-in-flux secondary swear they don't know where they'll be lining up in Sunday's regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

"I won't know until I guess on Wednesday (when the game plan comes out)," third-year cornerback Sam Shields said Monday. "Right now, I don't know anything. We're just doing a lot of moving around. Hey, you've got to go with it."

This much is set: Veteran Charles Woodson will play safety in the team's base defense and work in the slot or roam around in the nickel and dime defenses. Cornerback Tramon Williams will match up each week with the opposing team's best receiver. And third-year safety Morgan Burnett remains a starter.

But the questions that were at issue throughout training camp apparently remain: Who'll start opposite Williams at the other cornerback spot in the base defense? Which of the team's young safeties will come in for Woodson in the nickel and dime packages? And who'll serve as the sixth defensive back in the dime?

This much is set: Veteran Charles Woodson will play safety in the team's base defense and work in the slot or roam around in the nickel and dime defenses. Cornerback Tramon Williams will match up each week with the opposing team's best receiver. And third-year safety Morgan Burnett remains a starter.

In last Thursday's preseason finale against Kansas City, veteran Jarrett Bush was the No. 2 cornerback, rookie fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian entered at safety in sub packages, and Shields was the dime cornerback. But M.D. Jennings is also an option at safety, Shields could still get the nod over Bush with the starters, and cornerback Davon House hasn't given up hope of playing against the 49ers despite a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since Aug. 9.

Every year, coach Mike McCarthy tries to keep as much of his Week 1 personnel under wraps as he can in hopes of keeping the opponent guessing. In addition to the unscouted looks the 49ers will not have seen on film before Sunday, the coach doesn't want to tip his hand on which players he'll use.

"We're going to have a primary way, a secondary way, different combinations of things based on scheme, and those are the types of things we obviously want our opponent to see on Sunday, not in Wednesday in the paper," McCarthy said. "We're working through it."

The secondary is a primary concern for the Packers after allowing an astronomical 4,924 yards passing last season — the most in NFL history. Although a poor pass rush was a factor in the secondary's struggles — the team's 29 sacks ranked 27th, and no team had a worse sack percentage (sacks per drop back) than the Packers' 4.28 percent — the group knows it must play significantly better this season.

"We know that wasn't us. You can look at the tape from the previous years and look at the one last year, and it just wasn't the same. That just wasn't us," said Williams, who injured his shoulder in the opener last year and essentially played with one arm the rest of the season. "We know that, and that's why we came into training camp refocused, ready to go. We put a lot of good things on film this preseason, and hopefully they carry over.