Who Will Be the Next Atari Bigby?
by Mike Conklin
Although Bigby's time in Green Bay didn't last particularly long, it's easy to forget that he was a difference maker for a while. In fact, he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December 2007, when the Packers were on the home stretch of a playoff run. And in the "Snow Globe Game" in the playoffs against the Seahawks, he truly made his presence felt. He had two monster hits, one of which caused a fumble that led to the Packers taking a lead that they would not relinquish. After Bigby had left his mark on those Seahawks receivers, they visibly appeared hesitant and looked like they could hear footsteps.
Much can be made about how the rest of his career with the Packers was snakebit by injuries and contract disputes, but this post isn't really about what Bigby did on the field. It's about how he got his job in the first place.
In 2006, the Packers signed Marquand Manuel to fill a void at safety. That turned out to be a disaster. As the 2007 season approached, the Packers still hadn't seemed to solve the problem at safety. Fans were dreading the prospects of another season with Manuel.
Meanwhile, Bigby had quietly spent about a year and a half on the practice squad. In the 2007 offseason and training camp, while fans were clamoring for the Packers to sign another free agent safety, all Bigby was doing was impressing his teammates. Al Harris came out and said he reminded him of Brian Dawkins. And Charles Woodson chimed in, "I really like him too. Keep an eye on him. You'll see what we like when the lights come on."
Players were lobbying for Bigby to get a chance, and the team listened. In a somewhat surprising move, the Packers released Marquand Manuel when they made their final cuts. They decided to move forward with Bigby, an undrafted player that had virtually no experience. But players and coaches liked what they saw from a young, emerging player.
Will there be a similar story this year? McCarthy has mentioned both M.D. Jennings and Anthony Levine many times, and seems to have a favorable impression of them. And they appear to have fallen in love with what they saw in Jerron McMillian in the pre-draft process. They wanted him badly enough that they spent a fourth round pick on him, even though he was projected as a likely free agent.
Charlie Peprah was actually on the roster throughout 2006 and 2007, so he watched the entire Bigby story unfold. Bob McGinn had reported that the other players had lost faith in Marquand Manuel, and there was likely some drama in the locker room. We have heard no such whispers about Peprah, but after a less-than-inspiring season in which the Packers broke all time records for futility, there is a chance he may watch history repeat itself.Tweet