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Maine safety addresses need for a tackler

Posted Apr 28, 2012

Fourth-round draft choice Jerron McMillian sounds as though he’s exactly what the Packers need: a good tackler.

“He was always around the football. He’s an excellent tackler and you guys know what our tackling looked like last year,” Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said moments after the Packers made McMillian, 5-11, 203, the team’s second of consecutive draft picks on Saturday.

McMillian became the fifth consecutive defensive player the Packers have selected in this draft. They are, of course, attempting to repair what was the league’s lowest-ranked defense in 2011.

“He has the qualities we look for in a safety. He can run. He’s very aggressive. He’ll throw his body around,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said of McMillian.

A three-year starter at Maine, McMillian impressed the Packers in interviews at the combine and in his visit to Green Bay prior to the draft. At the combine, McMillian ran in the 4.5’s and his 17 reps on the bench reinforced his reputation for being a rugged run-defender.

“He just had a very aggressive style when you watched him play. He went after the run,” Capers said.

McMillian was selected just three days after the Packers released veteran safety Nick Collins due to a neck injury Collins sustained early last season. McMillian would seem to offer a similar physical presence to the one the Packers lost when Collins was released.

“I was looking forward to learning from Nick. When I heard he was released, it was sad,” McMillian said. “I admired how he was always in the right place at the right time and secured tackles.”

In his conference call with reporters on Saturday, McMillian sounded surprised that he was selected as early in the draft as he was.

“I didn’t know they were going to pick me until I got that phone call,” he said. “Not too many teams came to my pro day. I checked my e-mails daily. Today, it just hit me. I’m in a good position.”

McMillian said he also made visits to the Giants and Jets; he’s a New Jersey native.

“One of the things that stood out is his versatility,” Perry said. “We’re not only looking for guys that can play deep safety, but can also play at the line of scrimmage.

“He has a very high football IQ. It’ll be a tremendous challenge for us to get him ready to play, but I think he’ll be up for it.”

Capers’ hope is that five straight defensive picks will do for the defense what an emphasis on offense in the previous two years has done for that side of the ball.

“Last year, we had five out of the first six were offense. We’ll be working overtime with each of these guys. We know how important these guys are going to be to our success on defense,” Capers said.

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