For the sixth year, Packer Report takes a bottom-to-top look at the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This list doesn't necessarily rank the players from best to worst, but we take into account the players’ importance on the roster and other factors such as contracts and potential.
|9||Morgan Burnett||S||6-1||209||25||5||Georgia Tech|
Cobb: One year after threatening the Packers’ single-season record for all-purpose yardage, Cobb was off and running again in 2013.
He opened the season with back-to-back games of seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown and nine catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Then came a broken fibula sustained just before halftime of the fifth game of the season. With 29 catches for 378 yards and two scores to that point, Cobb was on pace for 93 receptions, 1,210 yards and six touchdowns.
Cobb returned for the season finale at Chicago, and turned both of his catches into touchdowns — including the game-winning, 48-yard score — to finish his third season with 31 grabs for 433 yards and four touchdowns.
Receivers coach Edgar Bennett preaches making the most of your opportunities. Cobb has done just that. Among wide receivers with at least 25 catches, Cobb led the NFL in catch percentage in 2011 (80.6 percent), was second in 2012 (78.4 percent) and was first again in 2013 (77.5 percent). He dropped just one pass last season after ranking among the league leaders with 11 in 2012, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Cobb, who is entering the final season under his rookie deal, downplayed his increased role in the receiving game and contract status.
"I’m taking it a day at time,” Cobb said. “The most important part right now for me is to get better every day and continue to do the things that have gotten me to this point and my drive and having that motivation day in and day out and continuing to find a way to get better at my craft."
As it turns out, Daniels, a fourth-round pick in 2012, has been the man for the job. After his rookie season was detoured by a torn labrum sustained during his senior season at Iowa, Daniels was the team’s breakout player last year. In fact, Daniels’ production in 2013 rivaled what Jenkins did in 2010. Jenkins had seven sacks and 21 quarterback hits in helping the Packers win the Super Bowl. Daniels had 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits in 2013.
“Mike’s always been a tough guy,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “That’s what we loved about him. People were probably a little bit afraid of him because of his size and his height and he doesn’t have the NFL standard height and arm length, but we really loved him. He’s an ex-wrestler who will get in there and grapple with (linemen). He’s not going to be a finesse guy. He’s very tough, works hard, great leverage and very good hands.”
Now, Daniels is looking to take the next step. The fiery, articulate and intelligent 25-year-old embraces the leadership mantle of being one of the unit’s elder statesmen.
“I'm very comfortable (being a leader),” Daniels said. “If something has to be said, I'm going to say it. If somebody has a problem with it, then we're grown men. We play a violent game. We get paid to be violent, so why not? If you deck somebody in the locker room because you had a disagreement, there's not going to be any sensitivity training. It's a barbaric sport, so that's how you're going to have to approach it. I'm tired of getting our face punched in by other teams. I'm not used to that."
Burnett: In 2011 and 2012, Burnett was the only safety in the league with 100 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in back-to-back seasons. Those numbers helped him land a contract worth more than $26 million through the 2017 season.
In 2013, Burnett piled up 106 tackles but didn’t record an interception or force a fumble in 13 games. He was a step slow in coverage and missed too many tackles.
At the Scouting Combine, coach Mike McCarthy attributed some of Burnett’s problems to his sidekicks at safety. While Burnett wouldn’t use it as an excuse, the ineffective play of M.D. Jennings pigeonholed Burnett — a ballhawking safety at Georgia Tech — into a mostly in-the-box safety.
“Morgan was very productive as far as tackles but, yeah, we want more plays made by our safeties,” McCarthy said. “I think that's important. Really, it all fits together. We need to go back, which we have, and look at exactly how we're utilizing everybody. What are you practicing? What’s getting called in the games? You go through this every single year. Are we creating enough playmaking opportunities for our players?”
Burnett is entering his fifth season. Entering the same stage of their careers, LeRoy Butler had 13 interceptions, Darren Sharper had 14 and Nick Collins had 11. Burnett has six.
Burnett, however, doesn’t sound like a man about to buckle under the pressure of a big contract and the lofty expectations that come with those dollars.
“I don’t feel no pressure,” he said. “I challenge myself as a player because my goal is to improve and get better each and every year, and I want to challenge myself to see where I’ve grown throughout my years in the league so far, and that’s just my main goal coming into every season. I want to improve and get better and show that growth.”
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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.