Will Woodson Do Safety Dance?
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Has the time come for veteran cornerback Charles Woodson to make the move to safety?
While no one was saying that the Green Bay Packers perennial Pro Bowler will be playing a different position next season if three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins doesn?t come back from his career-threatening neck injury, neither defensive coordinator Dom Capers nor safeties coach Darren Perry dismissed the idea during the final media availability session with the assistant coaches earlier this week.
?Charles has all those qualities. He could do that,? Capers said when asked about the possibility Monday afternoon. ?We do a lot of that with him right now because he plays inside so much. We?ve been about a 2 out of 3 (snaps) sub team, so he?s playing in there already. He?s been effective in terms of blitzing; we blitz him a lot. He?s close to the ball. He can take advantage of his instincts in there.?
Woodson is in some ways already a safety given how frequently he covers tight ends and slot receivers while also blitzing frequently. He?s also played the true safety spot at times over the past three seasons, including this year, when Capers went to what he calls his “Corner Okie” package, where Charlie Peprah came off the field, Woodson moved to safety and nickel cornerback Sam Shields came in at corner.
But a full-fledged move to safety would require Woodson to alter his game because he often would be playing deep, away from the line of scrimmage, Perry said.
?I think if he wants to make the move, he can certainly do it; the thing that would be tough for him would be the patience that may come with that position, because you?re not around the line of scrimmage as much,? Perry said. ?You can?t take as many chances.?
While Woodson does not cover like he once did, he still finished the season with a team-high seven interceptions, 20 pass breakups, two sacks and 83 tackles in 15 regular-season games. The Packers seldom used him outside as an every-down cornerback, and when they did, it was met with mixed results: In Week 2, Carolina?s Steve Smith caught six passes for 156 yards with Woodson matched up on him for virtually the entire game with Tramon Williams sidelined with a shoulder injury.
But according to Perry, Woodson could still be an effective cover corner if he had to be.
?Charles, he?s such a competitor, and I told him this, this was probably a month and a half ago: When he wants to practice and do things the right way, he?s still probably one of our better corners,? Perry said. ?I think what happens is, guys, he?s got some Troy (Polamalu)-type ability in terms of wanting to just go make a play because he?s done it for so many years and that?s what he is. People look at him on the outside and say, ?Well, he can?t play corner anymore because he?s looking to make a play as opposed to playing with a little more technique.? And I saw him in practice a few times and I said, ?Charles, what I saw today in practice tells me that you can still play this game at a high level if you want to.? He?s got rare ability.?
Collins will find out in March whether the neck injury he suffered against the Panthers that required spinal fusion surgery will allow him to return to football or force him to retire. Moving Woodson would mean more pressure on Williams, who had a down year after becoming one of the NFL?s elite cover men, and Shields, who struggled to the point of having to share nickel snaps with Jarrett Bush in the Packers? 37-20 NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the New York Giants on Sunday.
Woodson did not speak about moving to safety after Sunday?s game and did not speak to reporters during Monday?s open locker room period, saying he was on his way to a meeting with the coaches.
But appearing on ESPN Milwaukee and ESPN Madison?s Green & Gold Today in February, when he was hoping his former Oakland Raiders teammate and good friend Nnamdi Asomugha might consider signing with the Packers, Woodson said he was open to such a move if Asomugha were to sign with the Packers. (He wound up signing with Philadelphia.)
?If I talked to Dom and he thought that was the best thing for us to win another championship, I would do it,? Woodson said. ?This thing is about winning. If this would have been my fifth year in the league I probably would have told you, ?Hell no.? But at this point, if that was going to get me another championship, why wouldn?t I??
Whether Capers makes that move or not remains to be seen, but given how frequently Woodson matched up with tight ends over the last few years, it?s not out of the realm of possibility.
“We used him in all those ways. That?s one of the good things about Charles, he gives you that flexibility,” Capes said. “We?ve used that (?Corner Okie?) when we?re concerned about matchups, if we?re playing against a real good inside receiver. You go back to matching Charles up on (Jason) Witten with the (Dallas) Cowboys, when (Greg) Olsen was with the (Chicago) Bears ? the guys that can run vertical, the Jermichael Finleys of the world. Because of his experience, he can go in there and he?s got enough size and physicalness that he can match up pretty good on them.
“I just think that?s the direction that our league is headed right now. if you?re playing the New Orleans Saints, if you?re playing the Detroit Lions, if you?re palying the Green Bay Packers, you?d better be able to match up, because you?re going to have skill at a number of places and all of a sudden, if you have a mismatch, you?d better be protected.”