Packers Annual Checkup: S Morgan Burnett

Today is the sixth day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Come back every day between now and mid-March for his in-depth film and statistical analysis and check out the upcoming schedule below:

Today: S Morgan Burnett
Sunday, Feb. 3: CB Jarrett Bush
Monday, Feb. 4: WR Randall Cobb
Tuesday, Feb. 5: TE Tom Crabtree
Wednesday, Feb. 6: K Mason Crosby
Thursday, Feb. 7: DL Mike Daniels
Friday, Feb. 8: C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Season stats: 16 starts, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, 88 tackles, 12 missed tackles
Best game: Week 13 win over Minnesota (two interceptions, six tackles, two missed tackles, 2.3 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 17 loss at Minnesota (six tackles, two missed tackles, season-low minus-2.8 PFF rating) season rating: 7.4 (No. 16 out of 88 among NFL safeties; fourth-best rating among all Packers defensive players)
Expectations at the start of the season: High
Expectations were … Met
Looking live: Coach Mike McCarthy raised the bar pretty high for Burnett before the season began. Early in training camp, McCarthy said of Burnett: “He’s someone that they’ll be talking about throughout the league. I think he’s ready for that type of season.” Burnett was deserving of that praise at the time. His first week of training camp was about as good as any player’s could be. A third-round pick in 2010, Burnett showed plenty of talent from the beginning. But playing only four games as a rookie due to injury and then playing the majority of his second NFL season with a big club on his broken right hand didn’t allow Burnett to show off his full skill set. This season, his third in the league, was by far his best, and he was certainly helped by staying healthy for the entire year. With Charles Woodson out for nine games this season, Burnett also had to take an increased leadership role, and he did well with that, too.
Upon further review: With Burnett, there was a lot more good than bad this season. He led the team in tackles but also led the team in missed tackles. The problem is that, often times if Burnett misses a tackle, there isn’t much help behind him. That was on display when Burnett had Adrian Peterson wrapped up on Dec. 2 only to see the Minnesota Vikings star running back escape for an 82-yard gain. Peterson makes a lot of great players miss, but that was one of 12 missed tackles for Burnett this season. Burnett missed three fewer tackles last season, and that was while playing with a cast over his entire right hand for the majority of the games, so there was a slight regression in that area. However, Burnett does so many things well. He’s smart, he’s instinctive (he pretty much won the game for the Packers in Week 13 with his two interceptions) and he’s a playmaker. And, in addition to all of those positives, he just turned 24 years old.
Overall 2012 grade: B+
Status for 2013: 100 percent chance of starting for the Packers next season. Burnett is just starting to show how good of a player he can be in the NFL. At his age and with his talent, Burnett could be a multi-Pro Bowl player. He was already one of Green Bay’s five best defensive players this year and should only continue to improve. If Woodson is not back with the Packers next season, the experience that Burnett gained this year in playing so many games without him will be very helpful.
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