Peprah Playing Like a Starter

What was once a foregone conclusion — that Atari Bigby would reclaim his job — is no longer so obvious. On Monday — a day after Charlie Peprah's two pass breakups helped hold off the Jets — we talked to Peprah and safeties coach Darren Perry.

After some small talk at his locker room on Monday, Charlie Peprah intercepted my question at midstream.

"I knew you were going to ask that," he said.

The question? Should he remain the starting safety once veteran Atari Bigby is activated from the physically unable to perform list?

The question was worthwhile, considering Peprah's performance against the Jets specifically and the last few weeks in general.

With the Packers clinging to a 6-0 lead, the Jets went for it on fourth-and-8 from Green Bay's 35-yard line with 4:18 remaining. Mark Sanchez threw a perfect pass to Jerricho Cotchery; Peprah threw a perfect shoulder into Cotchery's back to dislodge the ball.

"I was excited," Peprah said. "I was glad the ball came out because in this league, eight, maybe nine times out of 10, they're going to bring that ball in, even though they're going to take the hit. I just tried to time it up and hit him in the right spot to make the ball jar loose."

On the next drive, the Jets had a second-and-5 from their 28-yard line. Sanchez threw deep over the middle to Cotchery, and Peprah jumped over Cotchery's back to knock the ball away.


Charlie Peprah makes his second breakup against Jerricho Cotchery.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
"He showed some athleticism in terms of timing that thing to where you don't have a lot of time to decide what action you're going to take," safeties coach Darren Perry said. "Either you've got to go through him or you've got to knock the ball down, and he showed some athleticism in terms of timing that thing and getting the ball out of there."

Whether Peprah will hold onto the job when Atari Bigby returns remains to be seen. What is clear is that Peprah has been an upgrade — at least in the short term — over rookie third-round pick Morgan Burnett. Burnett's athleticism was a huge asset but he wasn't consistently physical or decisive. The two pass breakups at the end of the game by Peprah were the kinds of plays that weren't being made by Burnett.

Peprah was partially responsible for two long completions in his first start, at Washington, but has been "solid in coverage, solid in the run game" since then, Perry said.

Which begs the question: Bigby is entering his third week of practice. He hasn't been a great starter but he's been darned good. From 2007 through 2009, Bigby started 33 games. Green Bay went 25-8 in those games, for a winning percentage of .758. Without him in the starting lineup, the Packers went 5-10, for a winning percentage of .333.

Perry wasn't tipping his hand when pressed on the question.

"Charlie's been playing well," Perry said. "I think Charlie knows the situation but we're going to let that stuff take care of itself. As of right now, we're just trying to put the best guys out there and try to find a way to win the next ballgame. Charlie's been playing winning football but we're always going to be looking to get our best guys out there on the field that give us the best chance to win. However that pans out, we'll determine that as we get closer to the game."

Peprah said he has "blinders on with all of that." He called his play "solid" but said that if he had been playing good enough, the Packers would be 4-0 in his starts rather than 2-2. Still, Peprah — who had started just one game since entering the NFL in 2006 — has been playing better and better.

"It's definitely fun," said Peprah, who started 45 games at Alabama. "You kind of forget how it was like to get into the groove of playing the whole game, week in and week out and preparing like that and just getting into the zone. It's different when, I refer to it as being a pinch-hitter. You come in and relieve some people here and there. It's different when you get into a groove, get into a zone and see offenses repeat plays, little things like that. It's definitely a lot of fun. I'm enjoying it and I hope this is how I finish the rest of my career."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, 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.


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