It’s tough losing one of your best players to injury. Their leadership, experience and skills will obviously be missed.
But what happens when you lose a player who is the engine of your defensive scheme?
Woodson is the most versatile player for the Packers, as his ability to step up and play the run while still being able to read and drive in zone allow for him to be played near anywhere on the field. (Even “Outside Linebacker”, as Chris Collinsworth said in the Houston game. It’s called the Nickel Corner, Chris…)
The question that is presented with his injury is now two fold. Does the scheme change? Who steps up in it?
In the base 3-4 defense, the scheme will likely stay the same. Instead of Woodson, Jerome McMillan or M.D. Jennings will step into the safety role. But in the Nickel, things get much more complicated. It would be a lot of fans and coaches to expect someone to come into the Nickel Corner position and play it the same way Woodson does. That being said, I feel as though their are three simple ways for them to proceed:
1. Play a more traditional Nickel using Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Sam Shields and Davon House
This option would involve less blitzing from the Nickel spot and more from the Linebackers. The corners and safeties would play straight man or zone coverage while relying on the linebackers and lineman to get pressure. The Packers play this coverage regularly, but usually mix it in with their zone blitzes to create some uncertainty for the opposing offense. The challenging part about this is you would be taking away the uncertainty and essentially challenging the offense to beat you.
2. The 1DL-5LB package
This rarely seen package is a form of the nickel with one down lineman and five moving linebackers. With the injuries on the defensive line, this option seems likely. This package is designed to create instant uncertainty as any player can drop in coverage or rush the passer. It also lends itself to both zone and man coverage, as it is difficult to discern exactly what coverage is being played with all the moving parts.
3. Jarrett Bush (No seriously, keep reading)
Is he rough at time in coverage? Yes. Has he caused Packers fans to facepalm in anger numerous times? Yes.
But in the preseason, when Woodson isn’t playing, typically Bush fills his spot. He has the size to play the run while having the tenacity from gunning on special teams to take on blockers. While he may be suspect in coverage, his ability to keep the Packers playing in a similar fashion could be beneficial