Dom Capers will try to fix a pass-defense that is ranked last in the league, but he won’t have one of his best players, safety Nick Collins, to help do it.
“That’s the unfortunate thing about our game,” the Packers defensive coordinator said. “In one play, things can change around a lot. We’ll have to pick up.”
One play early in the fourth quarter cost the Packers Collins for the remainder of the season. Head Coach Mike McCarthy announced on Monday afternoon that Collins has been lost for the year due to a neck injury he sustained on the sixth play of the fourth quarter in Carolina on Sunday.
The burden for replacing Collins immediately falls on veteran Charlie Peprah, who replaced the Packers’ other safety, Morgan Burnett, following a Week 4 injury last season.
“We have a guy in Charlie that played a lot of plays last year and Morgan has put together back-to-back good starts,” Capers said.
Peprah told reporters on Monday the Packers locker room was stunned to hear the news that Collins would not return to action this season.
“It’s definitely a punch to the gut. Everyone is trying to get used to the news,” Peprah said.
Peprah made a touchdown-saving tackle on Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith along the sideline in the fourth quarter on Sunday, after Collins had left the game.
“They expect me to go in and have no drop-off,” Peprah said. “I have big shoes to fill.”
Burnett is in his second pro season. He was a third-round draft choice last season and had been a starter at safety until having his second ended by a torn ACL.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Burnett said of playing without Collins. “You don’t have any worry about Charlie.”
Capers’ greatest worry is for a pass-defense that has been touched for 851 yards through two games. It has the Packers defense ranked 30th overall, despite a No. 6 ranking against the run.
“I certainly don’t like the way we started,” Capers said of Sunday’s game, which saw the Panthers move 85 yards in 10 plays following the opening kickoff. “The thing I did like was we fumble the kickoff and our guys did a nice job of holding them to a field goal, and I feel that from that time our guys responded.
“The big thing has been our red zone defense. We’ve held people eight out of 11 (times),” Capers added.
It has been the Packers’ ability to deny touchdowns when their backs have been to the goal line that is the big reason the team is 2-0 heading into Sunday’s NFC North showdown in Chicago. Had the defense allowed a score here and there, the Packers’ record could be reversed.
“We don’t like the big plays. We have to limit some of those big plays. We don’t want to give up 400 yards throwing a game. We don’t want to do that,” Capers said.
The Packers won’t have Collins to help fix that pass-defense.
“It’s hard to replace a guy like Nick. There’s no question, Nick will be missed.” Additional coverage - Sept. 19