Peprah Adequate, but Pack Certainly Miss Collins

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by Andrew Coughlin

When strong safety Nick Collins went down in week 2 with a severe neck injury, Green Bay's secondary wasn't exactly shutting the opposing passing attack down.  In the first game of the season the Packer defense gave up 419 yards through the air against the New Orleans Saints.  Granted, it was QB Drew Brees that carved up that secondary.  Brees is on pace to throw for well over 5,000 yards, which would set the all-time single season passing yards record.

Week 2 was pretty much the same thing with a different quarterback.  A rookie quarterback no less.  Carolina's rookie QB Cam Newton's line for that day: 28 - 46 for 432 yds, 1 TD and 3 INTs.  Newton posted season highs for completions, pass attempts and yards, but he did throw 3 picks against the Packers.  Collins left that game in the 4th quarter when he jammed his neck going in for a tackle against RB Johnathan Stewart.  He hasn't played a game since.

So, the Packer secondary was beleaguered before Collins' injury, I know.  And the first two weeks of the season were the two highest yardage games by opposing teams all year thus far and Collins started and played in almost every minute of those two games.  But make no bones about it, Nick Collins is a special player.  Former Packer strong safety LeRoy Butler called Nick Collins one of the best safeties in the NFL last year when Green Bay won the Super Bowl.

Let's be fair and say Charlie Peprah has done a nice job of filling in for the underrated Collins.  Peprah has 9 pass defenses and 4 interceptions in 12 games this year.  He plays the run well enough compiling 72 total tackles with 2 weeks left to play.  Although he does have those 4 INTs, it seems like Peprah gets caught out of place a lot while defending TEs and has been burned deep on more than a few plays by WRs.  Don't get me wrong, most of the Packers' secondary has been burned this season and Peprah isn't the problem.  The defense certainly has a plethora of problems giving up yards.

I do think that Collins lack of presence back there has caused some uneasiness within the secondary.  Whether it's a communication problem or a lack of execution, only Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Morgan Burnett and Peprah know. 

One thing I do know is Collins was a ball hawk and those cornerbacks knew they could count on him.  From 2008 to 2010 Collins had 17 interceptions and the amount of times Collins was out of position seemed minimal at best.

The Packers' defense ranks 31st in passing yards allowed (289.4 yds/gm).  Green Bay is second to last in front of New England's defense which is terrible against the pass, but not by much more (296.7 yds/gm).  The Packer's saving grace has been the take away.  They lead the league with 27 INTs and its worth mentioning that the Packers are usually up on teams during the second half of games.  Meaning: they get thrown on a lot because teams are trying to play catch up.

Injuries to the linebacking group and a nonexistent pass rush from the defensive line are not helping matters much either.  Needless to say, the defense as a whole should be doing a better job defending against the pass, but it'd be interesting to hear what LeRoy Butler would say about the possible impact it would have on the team's defense if Collins were back there instead of Peprah.

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