FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Morgan Burnett, safety
Season stats: 14 games (938 snaps), 102 tackles, 11 missed tackles, one tackle for loss, zero sacks, two quarterback hurries, zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles, five passes defensed
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: minus-3.4 (ranked No. 17 out of 26 qualified Packers defensive players; ranked No. 9 out of 11 Packers defensive backs)
Best game: Week 6 win at Baltimore (played all 70 snaps; nine tackles, seven "stops," one missed tackle; 3.1 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 14 win over Atlanta (played all 60 snaps; eight tackles, one "stop," zero missed tackles; minus-1.6 PFF rating)
Looking live: Less than two weeks before training camp began in 2013, Morgan Burnett signed a four-year, $25 million contract extension. Burnett got off to a fine start in the first couple weeks of practice, putting together consistent performances while the Packers switched Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings back and forth at the spot next to him. There was no evidence to suggest that Burnett would go on to have the disappointing season that he did. In the third preseason game, though, Burnett injured his hamstring. That injury not only cost him the rest of training camp, but it also put him on the shelf until Week 5 of the regular season. That six-week gap between games for Burnett perhaps played a significant role in his decline in 2013. Maybe it was the pressure of the big, new contract. It could have also been due to the inconsistent play — and the multiple players shuffled in and out — of the other starting safety job. Whatever the reason, Burnett’s play drastically fell off this past season.
Upon further review: Before diving too deep into the negatives, it should certainly be pointed out that Burnett was just as serviceable as always against the run. On a couple of occasions during the regular season, when defensive coordinator Dom Capers was asked about Burnett’s poor play, he would cite run defense as a counter-example. And Capers was right. Though Burnett had only one tackle for loss, he had 31 stops (a category that totals the number of plays made that resulted in an offensive failure). However, Burnett was also second on the team in missed tackles. His main issue, of course, was in pass coverage. Whereas in 2012 it was often noted that Casey Hayward always seemed to be in the right position to make a play, the opposite was true of Burnett in 2013. Whether it was a mix-up in coverage or Burnett just being a step slow to help on deep passes, he just couldn’t catch the break that he desperately needed in order to turn a corner. It was noted in the postgame Report Card of the Packers’ Week 14 win over Atlanta that Burnett compounded his struggles that day. He was beat in one-on-one coverage by Falcons wide receiver Drew Davis (who had only 12 catches all season), including on one play that resulted in a 36-yard touchdown. In the playoff loss to San Francisco, the 49ers scored a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter on a play that Burnett should have handled better than he did. With A.J. Hawk matched on tight end Vernon Davis, Colin Kaepernick lofted a pass that Burnett had a shot at tipping or intercepting. Instead, Burnett’s reaction to the play was slow as he crossed in front of the pass arriving to Davis too late. That huge play really epitomized Burnett’s 2013 season.
Overall 2013 grade: D
Status for 2014: One-hundred percent chance of being one of the Packers’ starting safeties in the 2014 regular season. It will be interesting to see how Burnett bounces back from a season that he’ll want to forget. Burnett is now being paid like a playmaker, and not only was he not that, he also just wasn’t very good even by lower expectations. Burnett has plenty of talent and is a good communicator among the defensive backs, so the chances seem in his favor that he’ll be an above-average NFL player again in 2014. But after one season, that new contract looks like a mistake by general manager Ted Thompson. What would Burnett have been worth if the Packers were attempting to sign him this offseason? Maybe half of what he got a year ago, though only that high because of what Burnett did in previous seasons. Still, he’s a lock to start next season, and if he has better talent at safety next to him, that should help him tremendously.