When the Green Bay Packers step onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, rookie Jerron McMillian is aware he'll be tracing the footsteps that another compact safety with loads of potential made years before him.
Growing up, McMillian watched Indianapolis' Bob Sanders pound opponents into submission while also proving that a box-type safety could play reliable pass coverage. Sanders was plagued by injuries and though he won the 2007 defensive player of the year award, his career wasn't what it could have been.
The 5-11, 203-pound McMillian enters the game Sunday against the Colts as a fast riser in coordinator Dom Capers' scheme and he's trying to prove that another guy built to play near the line of scrimmage can cover receivers and running backs.
"I liked the way he came to play," McMillian said. "He showed that size means nothing in this game. The way he played and how instinctive he was . . . (he could) come up and support the run and still able to play deep, regardless how tall he was."
McMillian, who is 3 inches taller than Sanders, showed how much confidence Capers has in him when Capers drew up a defense that matched him up against New Orleans scat back Darren Sproles. The Packers had been chewed up by Sproles the year before and Capers needed someone who could handle him.
"It was fun, but it's work, too," McMillian said. "There's so many routes he runs, and he's so quick. I just knew where my help was. At first, in my mind I was wondering like, 'Why, what's the reason it's me?'
"But sometimes it's (because) I'm able to do a lot of things, that's how my game is. If they need me in the box doing something creative I don't mind doing that."
McMillian, who replaced M.D. Jennings as the nickel safety after Week 1, offers a lot because not only is he big enough to play the run, he's quick. His time of 6.69 seconds in the three-cone agility run was the best of any safety timed at the scouting combine in March.
Three weeks ago against Chicago, McMillian picked off quarterback Jay Cutler and two weeks ago against Seattle, McMillian laid out and deflected a pass on third down that would have gone for a first down. He also picked off a tipped ball, but the play was nullified because of a roughing the passer call.
There have been mistakes, too. (read more)