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June 22, 2017

Corners Are Key To D

The Packers have been a good defensive team exactly two times since Dom Capers took over as coordinator eight years ago. In 2010, the D finished 5th in yards and 2nd in points in a season that ended in the Super Bowl. And in 2014, the D surrendered only 19 points per game in the second half of a season that should have ended in the Super Bowl. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or even Inspector Clouseau to figure out what those two units had in common.

The 2010 team had veterans Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson as the starting cornerbacks and undrafted rookie Sam Shields as the No. 3. Williams might’ve been the best player at his position that season and Woodson wasn’t far behind. As for Shields, he was well on his way to carving out his own path as a premier corner by the time the playoffs rolled round.

The 2014 team didn’t have quite the same star power at corner, but the depth was incredible. Williams and Shields were the starters, and the backups were Casey Hayward, Davon House and Micah Hyde. Just think about that for a minute. Those three players, who weren’t good enough to start in that secondary, would go on to sign contracts worth a combined $70 million as unrestricted free agents in the next three years.

Neither the 2010 team nor the 2014 team was especially strong at linebacker. Key contributors on those two defenses included Frank Zombo, Sam Barrington and Jamari Lattimore. But when you have quality corners, it makes everyone else just a little better. Or if you want to look at it another way, just a little less bad.

That brings us to 2017. Look, Capers won’t get any smarter, Matthews won’t get any younger and Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan won’t get any more athletic. For the defense to get significantly better, the play at cornerback must get significantly better. The good news is there’s some legit talent at the position. Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins are former high picks, LaDarius Gunter made a sizable jump last season and you can be sure general manager Ted Thompson will visit the position early again in this week’s draft.

If Thompson hits a home run – or at least a ground rule double – over the weekend and if Randall and Rollins perform more like Williams and Shields and less like Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas, the play at corner should be good. Not 2010 or 2014 good, but good enough. House is also back to provide valuable experience.

Add in safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett, edge rushers Matthews and Perry and linemen Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark, and there should be enough talent for even Capers to field a pretty good defense. And with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, pretty good is all the Packers need to get back to the Super Bowl.

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6 Responses “Corners Are Key To D”

  1. Thorny
    April 26, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    It makes all the more dizzying why this wasn’t addressed via FA. Seattle was begging to trade Richard Sherman. Malcolm Butler was dangled by New England. Not saying the price wasn’t too prohibitive but we know Ted won’t pay going rates for anyone but his own.

    The fact he only added House leads me to believe he thinks we’re fine there. Counting on rebounds from Randall, Rollins and House seems like a very poor plan. Even poorer is counting on finding a stud when you pick 29th.

    As to the premise of the piece, I would argue our pass rush is equally important. We had Clay and Raji back in 2010, and Peppers and Clay back in 2014. We don’t have the rush nor the corners now and one draft and one year improvement isn’t likely to fix all that.

    Can’t wait for our pick tomorrow night. Time for a star not another solid floor guy.

    April 26, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Thank you, just thank you. Finally an article addressing our glaring weakness and talking about it. The only articles I’ve read all off season are about people raving about signing (2) TEs and a few other plug players. But what was our biggest weakness last year…? CB play. What was the reason we got roasted in Atlanta and didn’t make a super bowl…? CB play. What did we do to address really the only issue the Pack had last year…? Bring in a veteran corner who got cut by a non-contending team.

    What I’m saying is this, its great we got 2 good TEs, that was fun signing we aren’t used to. But we DID NOT address the ONLY issue I would’ve liked to see addressed this off season. Don’t tell me we are going to address the need in the draft because how well has that worked out…? (see Randall and Rollins) why not give up a few draft picks or break the bank for a SURE THING cornerback. Guys who are proven like Richard Sherman or A.J Bouye or Prince Amukumara or Malcolm Butler. The list goes on. Why roll the dice on a 20 year old kid when we can get a proven veteran?

  3. speakeasy
    April 26, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    A bit of a stretch to say TT thinks we are fine by only adding House. House is a trusted CB who had a couple of good years before a down year last season. He knows the system and adds another CB to the competition for next year.

    We will see how TT feels about his CB situation by how he uses his picks in the draft. If he does not address CB in the first 3 rounds, then your hypothesis that TT thinks we are fine at CB would be correct. However, I highly doubt that will end up being the case.

    He has to pick a pass rusher and a CB in the first 3 rounds period. Now, if the board does not fall the right way he could go BPA that’s not at a need position, but we shall see.

    He’s certainly gone for need before (Harrell, Sherrod, et al) and at times for BPA (Rodgers, Cobb).

    Huge draft for TT, but really its likely his last 2-3 drafts that will determine how our next few seasons go (unless we luck out on a few studs this draft).

  4. Nerd
    April 26, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    We need speed at the position. I’d still like some edge rushers though.

  5. Thorny
    April 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    @speakeasy… Not sure that Ted drafting a CB in first three rounds is an indication of anything. He drafted Cobb, Adams and Montgomery and Jordy, plus, Aaron. Were any of those guys huge needs?

    I’ve just tried Ted translating. He appeared more worried about RB than CB during last season. He added House at CB. I’m thinking he feels more urgency at RB than CB. Sure. If he takes a RB first round, I’ll feel validated but not sure I should. He may really feel a RB is better value than CB at 29 or vice versa. Shoot, he could take any position he feels is value.

    Drafting CB for sake of need is foolish meaning don’t miss a stud at another position because you reach to fill a need. Datone Jones, Richard Rodgers among others come to mind. 5th best corner may be nowhere as good of value as 4th RB. Take the RB in that scenario not panic to get less value due to need.

    We’re almost there. Pick 28 right before us is going to be very interesting. Someone may jump us to get a stud RB. Best event in sports is in a few hours.

  6. Deepsky
    May 8, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I wouldn’t write off Randall and Rollins just yet.

    Remember the beginning of 2016 when half the fan base wanted to cut Davante Adams because of his truly pathetic sophomore season?

    It’s not uncommon for corners to have bad sophomore seasons. Sam Shields had a sophomore slump. Mike McKenzie had a sophomore slump. I remember even back in 1991 thinking LeRoy Butler was another Packer bust.

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