Benny Sieu/USA TODAY

Burnett Breaking Out of Box

After making his mark mostly against the run last season, Morgan Burnett has been active in the passing game in training camp.

Morgan Burnett never has been one to pat himself on the back. So, not surprisingly, the Green Bay Packers’ veteran safety wasn’t about to say he’s having the best training camp of his six-year career.

“Really, my main focus is going in and being accountable,” he said this week. “I’m a true believer that the defense will put you in position to make plays. When the opportunity comes, you’ve got to make them. I’m just trying to make the most of those opportunities and find ways to get better and show improvement going into this year from last year.”

Burnett is coming off his best season in the NFL. Most of his impact, however, came in the run game, where he was one of the top in-the-box safeties in the league. In coverage, however, Burnett had a quiet season. Other than his injury-shortened rookie season, Burnett’s six passes defensed (coaches’ count) in 2014 were the fewest of his career.

Based on observation rather than hard data, Burnett appears to be in the middle of his finest training camp. He’s made numerous plays on the ball. In back-to-back practices last week, for instance, he broke up passes during red-zone periods.

“He’s had a good camp,” safeties coach Darren Perry said after one of those practices. “So much about it is about opportunities. Morgan’s athletic and he does all the things and, more importantly, he works hard. He’s taken advantage of the opportunities when the ball’s in the air to either go catch it or PBU. He’s done some good things.”

Last season, Burnett intercepted his first pass since December 2012. However, his six passes defensed paled in comparison to past seasons — 14 in 2011, 13 in 2012 and nine in 2013. Some of that, as Perry said, is about opportunity. It’s harder to make plays on the ball, obviously, when starting the play in the box.

Nonetheless, Burnett’s coverage numbers weren’t good, at least based on ProFootballFocus.com’s statistical measurements. PFF had Burnett allowing 31 completions in 40 targets (77.5 percent), with four touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating allowed of 132.8. Of 87 safeties who played at least 25 percent of the snaps, Burnett ranked 82nd in completion percentage and 84th in passer rating.

“I thought he was solid,” Perry countered. “It’s hard to go back and look back on it. We made some plays. So much of it is about opportunity. A lot of times, when you’ve got good coverage, the ball’s not going to be thrown to you. A lot of the times when guys are using the proper technique, the opportunities aren’t there. He’s an athletic guy. He can play back there, he can play near the line of scrimmage. That’s what we look for in our safeties.”

Burnett said it’s “too early” to determine if he’s having his best camp. Regardless, he’s happy with where he’s at. If 2014 was a big bounce-back season after a disappointing 2013, then he hopes 2015 will take it one step beyond.

“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Burnett said. “I feel good, I feel confident and that’s a good part of it. I understand the defense a little more so that’s one of my main goals is go out and play with confidence and go out and have fun with it.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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