Saturday, September 26, 2009

Brandon Safety?? Think About It.

The safety turmoil of the past week has got many Packer fans (and players) a little unsettled, as it appears the Packers weren't particularly ready for injuries to both our starters. Now, the position seems to be resting rather precariously on Nick Collins' ability to play through pain and the promise of two players who weren't in training camp. Oh, and Jarrett Bush.

With all this uncertainty, I offer this little tidbit of creativity: play Brandon Chillar at safety.

It makes a lot of sense, just probably not common sense. But when you are playing without all the bullets in your gun, you need to improvise.

The first volley someone would launch against this idea is the concept that a linebacker can't play safety. Two completely different skill sets needed. Chillar doesn't have the speed that a safety needs.

Totally understandable, and I would not be proposing Chillar in at safety on every play, but as a way to get our best players on the field (a philosophy MM has taken with the OL for years). Placing Chillar in a strong safety role means he will be playing more in run support and closer to the line, something we've seen Dom Capers do a lot of already with Collins and Atari Bigby.

Furthermore, in the Capers scheme, when an outside linebacker moves up to rush the quarterback, it is a safety who compensates by moving up to take that linebacker's place. We've seen many times, especially when the Packers have given up some big plays. Having Chillar take on that role would be second nature for him.

The issue with Chillar's speed is notable, however. At last check, Chillar runs a 40-yard dash in about 4.71 seconds, certainly not blazing speed for a safety. In contrast, Nick Collins runs about a 4.37, Aaron Rouse ran about a 4.59, and Atari Bigby finished in about 4.65. Obviously, Chillar would be at a disadvantage in obvious passing downs, which is why I wouldn't suggest him as a full-time solution.

But, straight line-to-line speed isn't always the biggest need for a safety. Certainly, having that catch-up speed is critical for a corner, who is trying to keep up with speedy wideouts. But, for a safety, a lack of speed can be compensated for by playing smart. With all the action in front of you, you can compensate for a lack of speed by simply taking the better angle to get to your man in over-the-top coverage.

Dick Jauron once spoke about former Packer safety LeRoy Butler, who didn't have a blazing 40-time (and incidentally, played like a linebacker) and the misconceptions of straight-line timed sprints and how you play the game.

'People used to say, 'How fast is LeRoy Butler?' '' Jauron said. ''I'd say, 'As fast as the guy he's covering. If a guy runs a 4.3, he'll run a 4.3 and cover him. If a guy runs a 4.5, he'll run a 4.5 and cover him.'

''He'll run a real good 40, but I never thought it was indicative of what his speed was. He played as fast as he needed to play. Generally, guys' times are pretty indicative of how fast they are, and you've got to have speed to play in the league, but you've got to have speed that works on the field. That's the speed that really counts."

We've seen Chillar often as the first guy to make contact, because he can take what speed he has and use it. Certainly, we've seen other players blessed with greater speed make far more glaring mistakes, simply because they took the wrong angles or simply missed a tackle.

Furthermore, if you were forced to move a linebacker into a safety role, there'd be no better candidate than Chillar, who has been lauded as our best cover linebacker. He's a smart cookie with excellent body control and the ability to go airborne.

The Packers are playing deep at linebacker, and have more than enough bodies to go around to fill those four spots. Chillar, by many accounts, may be one of the top four, but still ends up playing behind other guys with larger salaries and better-selling jerseys in the Pro Shop.

And Mike McCarthy is at his best when he is able to spit-and-wire solutions to problems. I have commended him in the past for the job he did with the offensive line his first few years, compensating for a lack of protection with extra blockers, five-wide sets, and adapting the zone blocking scheme to include running plays that would stretch the defenses outside. He's moved linebackers to fullback and tight end pretty effectively. If he is really looking at the best solution for solving the safety dilemma, moving Chillar back would be an out-of-the-box solution as good as any other.

Playing Chillar at safety wouldn't be the dumbest move ever, especially when you have Jarrett Bush and two guys still in crash-course mode who may be your only options if Collins can't go on Sunday.

No, it isn't perfect solution, but it is an intriguing one. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the Packers need to find a way to plug the hole at safety. Taking your best cover linebacker and putting him five yards further back could be a far more genius move than having Spencer Havner play two-way football to free up a roster spot.

The ball has been in McCarthy's court this past week to take accountability for the holes on this team and make it better. Time to take your shot, MM. Here's my idea.

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