Let’s start with this: at 37, Charles Woodson is not the player he was even two years ago. His collarbone injury will sideline him for at least six weeks, further testing a unit beset with injuries. Some will say, ‘let the young guys step up; the defense won’t miss a step. Charles hasn’t been the dominant player we’ve grown to love anyway.’
I beg to differ. True, Woodson is on the back side of Hall of Fame career. He hasn’t been the ultimate playmaker so far this season, as he makes the adjustment to more snaps at safety. But his presence on the field as the vocal and spiritual leader of the defense will be missed. For my money, he can’t come back soon enough. Hopefully he’ll be back for the stretch run in December, when the Pack plays divisional games in four of the last five.
You don’t think the presence of Woodson makes the youngsters in that secondary better? Not just on Sundays but all week long? It’s a big blow for the Packers who are finally playing at the level we expected to see after being spoiled by a magical 2011 which started with a Super Bowl and ended with a 15-1 regular season.
The good news is the Packers appear to have much more depth in the secondary than they had two years ago when the same injury knocked Woodson out of the Super Bowl. Still get the shakes remembering seeing Jarrett Bush playing corner as Big Ben tried to mount a fourth quarter comeback.
Ted Thompson appears to have hit on Casey Hayward and Jerrion McMillain in this year’s draft; and if Davon House can stay healthy he should add another nice corner to put in the mix. It will be up to McMillain and/or M.D. Jennings to show they can handle Woodson’s safety spot in the base defense. Assuming Sam Shields returns soon, Hayward should be able to man Woodson’s nickel spot.
That means the team will have to hope their rookies are ready to step up and handle this grind of a football season. The timing is good: with the Jaguars and Cardinals (two offensively-challenged squads) coming to town leading up to the bye, the patched together defense will have some time to collect itself before facing stiffer road challenges in Motown and New York.
Losing Woodson shouldn’t cause the defense to crash and burn. But getting him back in December will feel like the best present of all, as the team battles for playoff position.