What is the impact of Collins’ injury for Packers?

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The Packers aren’t going to replace Nick Collins in the secondary. The way I see it, the Green Bay safety is one of the top players at this position in the NFL. And there is no question the neck injury that will keep Collins out for the remainder of the 2011 season is a tough blow to this defense.

What is the overall impact of losing Collins in Green Bay? Here’s what I am thinking…

Nick CollinsICONWill offenses attack the middle of the Packers secondary without Collins?

– The play making ability. Collins has top-tier range and ball skills playing in the middle of the field (think Cover 1) or coming off the numbers when the Packers play their 2-deep looks (Cover 2, 2-Man). He takes good angles to the ball and can finish at the point of attack. Charlie Peprah will move into the lineup to take his spot, but there is a drop off there in expected production.

– The defensive scheme isn’t going to change. You don’t flip the script when you have an injury to a starter in the secondary. However, what I want to see is how opposing offenses attack this defense with Collins out. Do we see more deep inside breaking routes (dig, post, seam, etc.) vs. this secondary? Or more vertical concepts outside of the numbers vs. single high safety looks to test the range of Peprah and Morgan Burnett? Because that is where I am going with the ball in the passing game to see if there is an opening, or opportunity, to pick up an explosive play.

– The Packers have legit talent in their secondary, but this unit hasn’t played great football over the first two weeks of the season. And despite the turnovers they forced in the win over the Panthers, both Drew Brees and Cam Newton have put up some numbers working the ball down the field in consecutive weeks. This secondary needs to make some corrections and get off the field on third downs. And now they will do it without a Pro Bowl talent.

– The first test: this Sunday at Soldier Field. We know Mike Martz wants to throw the football (regardless of protection issues along the O-Line) and test the top of the Packers defense. I would look for the 3-level route schemes outside of the numbers, the deep 15-yard dig and the combination routes that can press the middle of the field down the hash. The pressure won’t change from Dom Capers’ unit (and the ball will have to come out quickly), but keep an eye on what the Bears do early on Sunday with Jay Cutler. Their play calling will give us an idea of how they want to target the Packers’ secondary without Collins.

Like I said above, the Packers won’t replace the talent and play making ability of Collins. But that doesn’t mean they can’t play productive football in the secondary. Let’s see how it shakes out.

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