GREEN BAY – To understand the Green Bay Packers’ current situation at safety following the release of three-time Pro Bowler Nick Collins, all you had to hear Thursday night was this: The nicest thing Dom Capers could muster about de facto starter Charlie Peprah is that he’s played a lot.
Peprah became a starter alongside Collins in 2010 when then-rookie Morgan Burnett suffered a season-ending knee injury four games into the season, then became the starter alongside Burnett last season when Collins suffered the career-threatening neck injury that ultimately led the team to release him on Wednesday because general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy were uncomfortable with the idea of him playing again for the club.
Two safeties went in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night – Alabama’s Mark Barron to Tampa Bay at No. 7 and Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith to Minnesota at No. 29 – while the Packers filled another glaring need when they took USC defensive end/outside linebacker Nick Perry at No. 28.
So where does that leave the Packers at safety without Collins? They have Peprah, M.D. Jennings (an undrafted free-agent who made the 53-man roster coming out of training camp), Anthony Levine (who spent most of the year on the practice squad) and, perhaps, cornerback Charles Woodson, who could possibly move to safety.
“Nick was a three-time Pro Bowl player. You hate to ever lose those kind of guys,” Capers said Thursday night after the Perry pick. “As I look at our safety (situation) coming into this year, we have a lot more experience than we’ve had. You got a guy like Charlie Peprah who’s played more than 900 plays in the last two years. Morgan Burnett started all year for the first time and we really like where he is. We think he can ascend into being a very good player for us. (And) we have a couple young guys that are going to compete here as we start OTAs and head into training camp who have been with us and been around. We’ve got some guys that have been in the room now much more so than what we had before.”
Still, Capers acknowledged that the experience lost when Collins was released was a blow.
“Last year obviously we were heading into the season with Nick, who’s an experienced guy and a real top-flight player,” Capers said. “The backup guys, hopefully one of those guys surfaces, where you feel comfortable. Charlie Peprah started as a backup two years ago and he played over 900 plays for us, and there’s no question in my mind that he’s a lot better player for the experience.”
Return to: Jason Wilde Blog