9.09.2010

Tramon Williams, VIP



"You've got a roster of 53 guys and you have to put those guys to use."

That's a quote from Tramon Williams, who on Monday was revealed to be the opening day punt returner for the Green Bay Packers and is perhaps the most important of those 53 in 2010 not named Aaron Rodgers.

With Ted Thompson's recent decision to part ways with oft-injured Will Blackmon, Mike McCarthy found himself in an interesting predicament with no true return specialist on the roster. Enter Williams, former specialist and current starting cornerback for the Green Bay Packers.

Now, the knee-jerk reaction to his decision is "you're bleeping nuts, Mike!" and its an understandable response. The concern when it comes to putting starters in at special teams is always injury, and remember, Al Harris is out half of the season and is not guaranteed to regain his form after blowing out his knee last year. People are naturally concerned about what an injury might mean: either perennial Packer punching bag Jarrett Bush or undrafted rookie free agent Sam Shields starting opposite Charles Woodson (I just shuddered typing that). Clay Matthews is a beast coming off the corner, but as the Steelers and Cardinals showed us last year, the pass rush can only hide so much. If Williams is injured on a return, Mike McCarthy will need to start grocery shopping with body guards.

But McCarthy really has no choice. He can't have Shields fielding punts after his whoops-a-daisy showings early in the preseason, and putting the reigning defensive player of the year back there would be truly careless. Woodson would do it without so much as a blink, but because Dom Capers leans heavily on his versatility, he's as indispensable on defense as Aaron Rodgers is on offense. Its not a risk worth taking.

Of course, the punt returner doesn't have to be a cornerback. The wide receiver corps is very deep, and an injury wouldn't seem to have such an impact. But backup Jordy Nelson is already returning kicks, and last season proved ineffective as a punt returner after posting a 5.4 yard average, roughly half of Williams' 10.4. Meanwhile, starter Greg Jennings is listed as the #2 return man, and would seem to be the more logical option considering the depth behind him. At this point, though, you're pitting two starting skill position players against each other, and Williams has much more experience with returns at the pro level. McCarthy made the logical choice.

So here we are. As crazy as it sounds, this is really the Packers' best option. Unless Thompson brings in another return specialist, the season's fate may rest on the healthy body of Tramon Williams. Its a bit disconcerting, I know, but let's try to focus on the positive: the punt-return game is in able hands.


9 comments: