Morgan Burnett: Green Bay Packers MVP versus Tampa Bay


With Christmas right around the corner, I wanted to take this time to reinstate myself as the Green Bay Packers Citizen GM – and give an extra dose of holiday cheer to a few deserving players.

If you didn’t see Morgan Burnett on Sunday afternoon – you must have fallen asleep on every defensive snap.

While there have been many guys who have taken the next step this year, I want to focus my attention this week on a player that had a career day this past Sunday in Tampa.

This is: Citizen GM’s ‘What You Might Have Missed’ in Tampa …

If you didn’t see Morgan Burnett on Sunday afternoon – you must have fallen asleep on every defensive snap.

No player on the Green Bay Packers returning roster felt more criticism than Burnett, following the “year of the safety sieve” in 2013.

Across from Burnett was a mixture of  M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian. Jennings departed from Green Bay in the offseason, while McMillian was released outright in the middle of the season – something that is rare.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Charles Sims (34) is tackled in the backfield by Green Bay Packers strong safety Morgan Burnett. David Manning-USA TODAY Sports photograph

With both of those guys gone, Burnett has flourished – there is no comparison to the leap that Burnett has taken in 2014.

Fresh off a newly-inked $25 million deal to extend his stay with the Packers, Burnett had his most injury-plagued and inconsistent year in 2o13. The safety position was far and away the weakest link of the Packers core groups, netting zero takeaways during a truly troubled season, and allowing menial QBs like Josh McCown (Chicago) and Christian Ponder/Matt Cassel (Vikings) to look like tried and true passing heroes.

Burnett was oft-criticized for not having what it took to get the job done in the secondary. He was put to the test against big-time receivers and fell uncomfortably short.

The secondary shortcomings made the entire defense look deplorable through last season – though it can hardly all be put on the shoulders of Burnett. The fans expected much more from a guy that was paid so handsomely for his services.

With a renewed sense of urgency, Burnett came into 2014 with a proverbial chip on his shoulder because of it – though he won’t readily admit to letting the chatter get to him.

He said he never “felt the pressure” but … let’s face it … it was there.

Now playing along side the likes of first round pick from Alabama, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, and ball-hawking second year man Micah Hyde, Burnett is spreading his wings a little this year; and the transformation is incredible.

In 2014, Burnett has posted 10-plus tackles in seven games.

At Tampa, Burnett had 10 tackles; with eight of those tackles being solo. Of those eight solo tackles, six of them went for a yard or less. Burnett was running rampant in the secondary but he was also frequently lurking near the line of scrimmage.

Morgan Burnett. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Burnett was able to put steady pressure on Josh McCown, being credited for a half sack, and make big stops in the run game.

Burnett was locked onto targets like Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson; he played the pass very well. He looks much more confident than he did last year, knocking the ball away and keeping his eyes to the quarterback.

Even the “Muscle Hamster,” Doug Martin, wasn’t able to get freedom from Burnett. On several key plays, Burnett was able to hover near the line of scrimmage and blow up a running play, taking all of Martin’s body weight full force.

With the movement of Clay Matthews between ILB and OLB, teams are having to game plan for differing looks in the pressure game. Burnett gave another wrinkle to be studied on Sunday.

Though his accolades are few, Burnett was chosen as a playoff captain, over even Matthews. His teammates respect what he is doing – and opponents would do well to respect him, too.