Another piece of the puzzle is gone. Morgan Burnett, long time starting safety of the Green Bay Packers, has moved on trading his green and gold for black and yellow. Morgan Burnett will help anchor the backend for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This move demonstrates the Packers’ willingness to put out with the old and bring in the new. Burnett has been considered the leader of the defense in both communicating calls and in the locker room.
Before anyone panics, let’s look at some of the options. Don’t forget about the Packers’ second-round pick last year, Josh Jones. He looked lost at times in his rookie year, however, it didn’t seem like the Packers had a defined role for him either. Asked to play a linebacker-hybrid one game and then drop back deep with Clinton-Dix the next. It was a lot on the plate for the youngster. Look for Jones to play much better and make that year 2 leap.
In addition to Jones, it’s important not to sleep on Kentrell Brice. Brice is a hard-hitting, free-flowing safety that played really well last season. Always seemingly around the football and shows up with nasty intentions once he makes contact. Brice will push Jones in camp and will be in a fierce competition for the starting safety job next to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. In my opinion, Brice is talented enough to start next season and Jones may end up playing closer to the line of scrimmage. With Brice and Jones on the field at the same time, the Packers defense can look much quicker and flow to the ball better than we’ve seen recently.
With Burnett signing with a new team and Randall being traded to the Browns, what message is being sent to the defense? Well, it’s pretty clear. Mike McCarthy is feeling the burn of the hot seat for the first time in a long time. He knows the defense needs a major overhaul and now is the time. Randall was long considered a malcontent both on the field and in the locker room. Whispers have it that veterans wanted him long gone last year after he blew up on the sideline in Chicago. McCarthy was quite annoyed and called him out in a press conference, which is extremely rare for him to do. In addition, McCarthy has let Dom Capers go and brought in a fiery coordinator in Mike Pettine. It seems like Pettine has his stamp on the team already and is changing course. The defense has been the stepchild of the team for long enough and some of these players stepping in may be just what the doctor ordered. We fans consistently get caught up in names rather than production. Morgan Burnett has been dinged up often the last few years and really hasn’t been the turnover machine that we need on the backend. He’s been a reliable player when on the field much like A.J. Hawk was. The point I’m trying to make here is that the Packers need more difference makers, which is much different than reliable. Reliable gets you in the conversation, difference makers fill the trophy case.
It’s hard to watch staple players like Burnett go, but the message is clear. Status quo is no longer acceptable on the defensive side of the ball. Wholesale changes are already in place and we will see a new look Green Bay Packers defense in 2018, for better or worse. In McCarthy’s best interest and job security, it best be the former and not the latter. What say you Packers fans? Was letting Burnett walk the right move? As always, Go Pack Go!Robert Martin bleeds green and gold despite living in North Dakota, where many cheer for the purple. He is currently a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @robertmartinPHD.