Packers 2017 Recap: S Morgan Burnett

Safety Morgan Burnett played the final year of his second contract with the Packers in 2017, and is a free agent this offseason.

Under former general manager Ted Thompson, Green Bay notoriously avoided giving their own players a third NFL contract. Guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang were here today, gone tomorrow.

New general manager Brian Gutekunst will make his own decision regarding the future of Burnett. The safety missed a quarter of the season due to injuries, and played a myriad of defensive positions when healthy.

2017 Stats

  • Played and started in 12 games
  • 48 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble

Expectations going into the season: High
Expectations were: Not Met

What we said after last season

Packers 2016 Recap: S Morgan Burnett – Originally expected to be the “center fielder” in the secondary, Burnett was pegged to be a ball hawk. He had nine interceptions in seven seasons. In 2016, the defensive captain became an elite run defender. He led all safeties and cornerbacks with one tackle every 10.2 snaps. Burnett maximizes his talents, and has fully reached the height of his potential.

Analysis: Without Burnett, the defense somehow played even worse

The Packers season was permanently derailed when Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone, but a midseason injury to safety Morgan Burnett may have put the nail in the 2017 season’s coffin.

Burnett’s hamstring injury during the fifth game of the season against the Cowboys kept the team’s defensive captain out of the Vikings, Saints, Bears and Ravens games.

The Packers would win just one of those three games, and the defense looked lost without him. Burnett wears the defense’s communication headset, and was responsible for calling the play and ensuring Green Bay was lined up correctly. Without him, that simple task became a challenge at times:

All told, Burnett would play in just over 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season. If it were up to defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Burnett would stay on the field until the final whistle.

The 29-year-old safety hasn’t played a full 16 games in the regular season since 2012, and struggled through hamstring, calf and groin injuries over the years. When healthy this season, Burnett did precisely what the Packers were asking him to do.

It meant lining up as an inside linebacker, or even playing cornerback in the nickel late in the season as other injuries decimated the secondary. Burnett did his job, and did it to the best of his abilities.

Those lower body injuries have started to take away from Burnett’s straight line speed and ability to cover receivers, however.

Against the Panthers in the season’s deciding game, Burnett could not handle the quickness of Christian McCaffrey in open space. Then in the season’s final contest, Burnett failed to drop far enough back in his zone coverage to stay with Golden Tate on a 71-yard touchdown.

He’s still one of the team’s best run defenders, and that’s one of the reasons why the Packers moved him in the box to line up alongside Blake Martinez as an inside linebacker so often this season. At times this season, Burnett was playing more as a linebacker than as a safety.

New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, along with the recently promoted Joe Whitt Jr., will likely assist in advising Gutekunst in determining his future with the organization.