GREEN BAY – While Casey Hayward may be a nice young man and may turn out to be a fine NFL cornerback, his selection by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft Friday evening was extensively discussed not for who he is but for what it might mean for another fellow on already on the Packers’ roster.
That’d be Charles Woodson, who could be ticketed for the safety position after the release of three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins and the drafting of Hayward.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” general manager Ted Thompson replied when asked if Woodson might be on the move. “We just drafted a young man out of Vanderbilt and put in the group of corners.”
With the team having decided not to bring back Collins following his career-threatening neck injury and subsequent single spinal fusion surgery, no free-agent safeties having been signed in March and none of the team’s three draft picks being used on a safety, Hayward’s selection only fueled speculation that Woodson might be the team’s best option at the position. De facto starter Charlie Peprah started for an injured Morgan Burnett during the 2010 season and started in place of Collins for the final 14 regular-season games last year.
On several occasions each year, defensive coordinator Dom Capers employed what he calls his “Corner Okie” defense, a base defense in which he would shift Woodson to safety and bring third cornerback Sam Shields onto the field to take Woodson’s spot at corner, sending Peprah to the bench.
“The thing that we do with Charles, the game plan dictates what he does,” said cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, Woodson’s position coach. “There’s been games where he’s lined up at linebacker. You go back to the Philly playoff game (in the 2010 postseason), he lined up at Mike linebacker. There’s been games that he’s lined up at safety already. There’s been games he lines up at nickel, dime, corner. The scheme and the game plan dictate where he lines up. That’s really a moot point, because he’s going to line up where we need him that week.
But while both Capers and Whitt pointed out that the versatile Woodson has moved around a lot in their defense the past three seasons, both men certainly left the door open for Woodson to see more time at safety in 2012 than he has in the past.
“We haven’t even had those discussions. You want to get through the draft and see where you are and all those things,” Capers said of moving Woodson. “Charles has played so many different places for us –corner, nickel, dime, safety. Wherever we’ve wanted Charles to play, he’s played.”
But when pressed on the idea, Capers said: “Our experience with Charles is Charles is a bright guy. It's not like it would be a radical move because of the way we've used him in the last three years, basically. We feel he can play any one of those positions. That's one of the things he brings to the table is the flexibility that he gives you that he can. That could potentially change from week to week. It has up to this point in time. You've watched us play him at a number of different position. Many times who you're playing that week and your game plan dictates that."
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