Before the Packers beat the Bears on the field, they beat them in the draft. The Bears desperately needed a safety last year but had traded away their top two draft picks. Chicago chose Major Wright, ranked the 12th-best safety in the draft by Scout.com, in the third round.
Before the Packers beat the Bears on the field, they beat them in the draft.
The Bears desperately needed a safety last year but had traded away their top two draft picks. Chicago chose Major Wright, ranked the 12th-best safety in the draft by Scout.com, in the third round.
The Packers traded up 12 spots, four picks ahead of the Bears, and grabbed Morgan Burnett, whom Scout.com rated a first-round talent.
Burnett showed the Bears why Sunday, intercepting Jay Cutler twice in Green Bay’s 27-17 victory. Burnett has three interceptions in the last two games, and made 14 tackles in the season opener.
“Morgan’s a playmaker back there,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said.
A playmaker at safety is something the Bears have desperately needed ever since Mike Brown started breaking down in 2004. But the Bears keep drafting low-round strong-safety types who tackle better than they cover receivers (Wright, Chris Harris, Craig Steltz, Chris Conte, Kevin Payne, etc.). As a result, Chicago’s only two interceptions this year are by linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Green Bay, on the other hand, drafted a safety that led the nation in interceptions as a sophomore at Georgia Tech.
“If the quarterback is just going to loft it up there,” Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji said, “Morgan is definitely going to go and get it.”
Burnett was slated to be an immediate starter for Green Bay but missed his rookie season with a knee injury. He’s one of those now-healthy injured players from last year who is supposed to make the Packers even better than the team that won the Super Bowl. Tight end Jermichael Finley, who caught three touchdown passes against the Bears, and Ryan Grant, who ran for 92 yards, are two others.
“He came up with some huge plays,” Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson said of Burnett. “He does a great job of keeping depth when he needs to. He’ll get a lot more of those this year if he does just that.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in him. Last year, he was cut short. We thought he was really coming on big then as well, so we just look forward to seeing him grow.”
The Bears like safeties that can play both spots, which partially explains why they always seem to have glorified linebacker-type safeties rather than ballhawks. But Burnett can play both spots, too. He started at strong safety when he had 14 tackles against the Saints, then moved over to free safety when Pro Bowler Nick Collins was lost for the season.
But Burnett’s true value lies in his ability to cover receivers — and get interceptions. Burnett’s first interception showcased his rare talent. Roy Williams was briefly open by 10 yards deep. Cutler saw him late, and by the time the ball arrived 35 yards downfield, Burnett was there first for the pick.
“Once you see the ball in the air, it’s up for grabs,” Burnett explained. “It’s either yours or the receivers. You just have to take the proper angle to the ball and have the intensity to come down with the play.”
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or email@example.com.