Sam Shields Quietly Returning to Form

The cameras focused on Clay Matthews destroying Jay Cutler, the announcers raved about Tramon Williams shutting out Brandon Marshall, and fans cheered as the Packers took a 10-0 halftime lead on the Bears after a surprise field goal resulted in a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Sam Shields kept silently plugging away.

Shields spent most of his time tracking Alshon Jeffry, helping to limit the rookie to one catch for seven yards.  Shields never did anything flashy — the Packers had Matthews, Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams to make the big plays. The third-year CB just did what the Packers needed him to do: Be fundamentally sound in pass coverage and get physical if needed.

The physical part started against San Francisco, as documented by Rob Demovsky here and highlighted in the video below.

In case you don’t believe what you just saw, that was Shields going hard after the ballcarrier (Frank Gore, nonetheless) and stopping him short of a first down. We didn’t see Shields stick his nose in there like that last season, and it’s a major reason why Shields had to fight to get his job back this season.

Shields played 60 of 63 snaps against the Bears and was only targeted once (on a pass to Devin Hester). After catching three passes for 80 yards in the season opener, Jeffry never sniffed the ball with Shields on him.

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said that the Bears game was one of Shields’ best “since he got here.”

Maybe some competition was just what Shields needed. As an undrafted rookie fighting to make the team, Shields looked like the next great Ted Thompson find in 2010. With some job security and a Super Bowl ring on his resume, Shields tumbled in 2011.

Jarrett Bush got the start over Shields against the 49ers and guys like Casey Hayward and Davon House pushed Shields all throughout training camp. Once he gets healthy, House will likely continue to try and take as much playing time away from Shields as possible.

Competition is a good thing. Who knows? Maybe Shields will go back to his passive self. Every defender played well against the Bears. That’s not going to happen every week.

I’d still like to see how Shields reacts when the ball is in the air and he needs to go up to make a play. He’s looked more aggressive tackling, but he also needs to be aggressive and physical when he’s going up for a jump ball against a wide receiver.

We might not have noticed how well Shields played on Thursday, but if he keeps showing signs of being the promising player he once was, we’ll notice soon enough.

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