Through five games last season, Woodson had three interceptions. Through five games this season, he's got one. Last year, he was guilty of eight penalties all season. This season, he's already been flagged seven times. Last year, Woodson won the NFL's defensive player of the year. This year, quarterbacks like Miami's Chad Henne say they won't shy away from throwing at Woodson.
"We're just going to go through our reads and our progressions," said Henne, who will start at quarterback against the Packers on Sunday. "If he ends up on the receiver that I throw to, then we'll throw. I don't think our offense is built around shying away from guys. But we obviously have got to know where he's at on the field because he is a good player."
Woodson was flagged three times last week at Washington. The first two didn't hurt the Packers, but the last one was a pass interference on second down in overtime. Had the Packers held the Redskins to no gain on third down, they would have needed a 48-yard field goal to win the game. Instead, the automatic first down helped put Graham Gano in position to win the game from just 33 yards.
Nonetheless, straight-shooting cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt not only defended Woodson but shifted the focus to the officials.
"His play is actually — and people are going to say, ‘Oh, you're crazy' — but he's played more consistent this year than he played last year," Whitt told Packer Report on Friday. "At this point last year, he had given up two, three touchdowns. This year, he's really only given up a half a touchdown. The penalties are penalties. I understand what he's doing. There's only one of them that I'm upset with.
"The rest of them, these receivers are allowed to push off and gain an advantage. Just like (Arizona's Larry) Fitzgerald did last year. (Woodson is) not going to allow that to happen. So, the thing that people don't see, he's getting pushed, pushed, pushed but they're only calling it on him. They can call what they want to call. I don't care. If they call it, they call it. But just call it both ways. If you're going to allow big receivers to push, you've got to call that. We've got guys that can get the ball. We've shown that we can get the ball. We're putting ourselves in position to get it but we have receivers pushing us out and they're gaining an advantage. When we try to regain the advantage, we get called. Penalties, we're trying to coach against it. But, you know, it is what it is."
The one penalty that Whitt referenced came in the Bears game, when Woodson jumped outside on Devin Hester. Hester beat Woodson to the inside and Woodson grabbed Hester to eliminate a potential big play. Whitt was critical of Woodson's technique on that play because it ran contrary to what was taught all week. Whitt can live with the six other flags.
"The hands to the face, that happens in combat," Whitt said. "That happens. When a guy's throwing him and he clutches because the guy's throwing him — that's what happened with Fitzgerald. It happened twice with Fitzgerald and they got 14 points and we lost the game in overtime. You take those 14 points off the board, we're going to play another game."
With the Dolphins' physical, 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall presenting the big challenge on Sunday, Whitt said he and Woodson have been working on some techniques that he said will help alleviate the penalties.
Charles Woodson has been physical on defense.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was not available for his usual Friday conversation with reporters, and Woodson did not make himself available all week. While Woodson might not be making the type of impact plays that he did last year, his all-around game is evident with his 36 tackles by the Packers' count. Only A.J. Hawk (37) has more.
"I think Charles has been very productive," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think it is reflected in his tackles. When you move him outside like we did last week and he is not playing inside, his opportunities are limited. When Charles is inside and closer to the ball, he has more opportunities, but I think Charles is off to another very good year."
Whitt echoed that statement.
"Play-wise, he's been fine," Whitt said. "He just doesn't haven't as many interceptions as he did last year at this time. But I'm pleased with the way he's played."
Packers general manager Ted Thompson surprised insiders and fans when he selected Brian Brohm with a second-round pick, No. 56 overall, in the 2008 draft. After all, he had Brett Favre's hand-picked successor, Aaron Rodgers, ready in the bullpen following Favre's retirement.
That pick has been bad in more ways than one. Brohm bombed, losing the backup's job to seventh-round pick Matt Flynn in training camp in 2008 and getting released at the end of training camp in 2009.
Meanwhile, the guy taken after Brohm, Henne, will start for the Dolphins on Sunday. Henne said he met with the Packers at the Scouting Combine but never saw much interest from them during the draft process.
"Obviously, it's their move," Henne said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Wednesday. "They had something in Brohm that they liked and they chose him over me."
Henne started 13 games last year, with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and has five touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
"Chad has done a nice job and is progressing," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said in his conference call. "It's something different each and every week. From where he was last year at this time, which is roughly around his second start — I think Chad Pennington got hurt in the third game last year — from where he was then to where he is now is two completely different places. He had a tremendous offseason and really a very good training camp. He's improved in a lot of areas. The game has slowed down for him from a mental standpoint. He's able to see things pretty clean now."
While Brohm is the No. 2 quarterback behind Ryan Fitzpatrick in Buffalo — he was No. 3 to start the season but the Bills released Trent Edwards — the Dolphins have hitched their wagon to the strong-armed Henne. They've shown their faith in him, with the run-first Sparano dialing up 44 passes in Week 3 and 38 passes in Week 4. Henne had thrown for 668 yards in those games.
"It was a good situation that I landed here," Henne said. "With Aaron there and Brett Favre still there and not knowing what's going to happen there, it was a good situation coming down here and learning behind Chad Pennington and getting an opportunity last year."
Take a seat, Chad
Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images
"No, we kind of take it as an advantage," Henne said. "We prepare that way during the week with the Wildcat. I come to the sideline, try to get a good feel of what the coaches are seeing, what the next play's going to be and anticipate going in there and getting a read on the defense."
The Packers work on the Wildcat practically every week, and have had no trouble stopping it in small doses. The Dolphins are averaging just 1.9 yards per Wildcat snap this season, down from 4.7 last year and 6.4 when it debuted in 2008. But their large menu of plays meant extra prep time for Green Bay's defense. At practice on Friday, when Brandon Underwood — impersonating running back Ronnie Brown — threw a pass, Capers reminded Tramon Williams that the left-handed Brown threw a 19-yard touchdown pass against New England in 2008.
"It's the combination of the scheme and they do an excellent job of stressing the extra gap that that formation has a tendency to create, as far as when you're running the football," McCarthy said. "They do a good job with the self scout and changing it up. They run a full complement to it. They don't just dabble in it, where some teams may have a series of plays. They have a full complement of offense that they've now been running for a couple of years."
How good has Williams been? According to Whitt, Williams has allowed four catches for about 30 yards in five games.
"To me, he's a high-level player," Whitt said. "You look at the numbers of the so-called Pro Bowl corners in the league and put his numbers against theirs and just see what you find for yourself. I've done it and there's not anybody other than Nnamdi (Asomugha of the Raiders) that's playing at his level."
Williams made history last week. He had a 64-yard interception return and a 52-yard punt return against the Redskins. Not only is that the first time a Packer had a 60-yard interception return and a 50-yard punt return in the same game, but it's the first time a player did both in the same season. The only players in NFL history to pull off that feat are Darrent Williams in 2005 and Deion Sanders in 1998.
— Green Bay is 2-0 at home while Miami is 2-0 on the road. The Packers boast the NFL's best homefield advantage since 1992, with their 109-37-0 record being four games better than Pittsburgh, five better than Denver and eight better than Minnesota. Lest you think that was built solely on the shoulders of Brett Favre during his MVP years, McCarthy is 21-7 at home (including playoffs) since the start of the 2007 season.
— Miami leads the all-time series 9-3, with the three Packers wins coming in their last four meetings ± including 2006 at Miami and the Dolphins' last visit here in 2002.
— The Packers aren't the only pass-happy team in the NFL. Through Week 5, quarterbacks have thrown for a league-record 33,452 yards, topping last year's record by 177 yards. The top five five-week passing figures have all occurred since 2002.
— There are eight teams with one loss entering this weekend. Five of those teams (Falcons, Bears, Chiefs, Steelers, Buccaneers) didn't make the playoffs last year. Only Arizona, which leads the horrific NFC West, and Indianapolis, in a four-way logjam in the AFC South, are in first place among last year's division champions.
— The Dolphins are 12-9 all-time coming off their bye week. Last year, however, they lost at home to the Saints, and they lost to Buffalo in 2007.
— Aaron Rodgers has a six-game home winning streak in which he's completed 66.3 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 101.8. Sunday's game marks a key stretch of three home games in four weeks before the bye. Those opponents (Miami, Minnesota and Dallas) are a combined 4-8.
— The Packers' 21 sacks trail only Tennessee's 22. Only the 1978 team, which had 23 sacks through five games, are off to a better quarterback-hitting start. The Packers didn't reach 21 sacks last year until the Week 11 game against San Francisco.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.