You can’t say GM Ted Thompson ignored the cornerback position during the offseason, but unless you’re extremely confident in a player who was released by the woeful Jaguars and a rookie, you really can’t say the position has been upgraded.
When a defense plays as poorly against the pass as the 31st-ranked Packers did in 2016, the GM often throws big money at the problem in the offseason. The 30th-ranked Titans, for example, signed ex-Patriot corner Logan Ryan to a $30M deal. But Thompson took a different approach. He gave street free agent Davon House $2.5M, drafted Kevin King in round 2 and crossed his fingers that Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins aren’t as bad as they looked a year ago. It’s a gamble that will either pay off big or ultimately play a big part in ending Green Bay’s season short of the Super Bowl once again.
There’s reason for both optimism and pessimism. A half-full type of person will see House not as the benched failure of 2016 but as the solid starter of 2015 who already knows the defense. A half full-type of person will see King not as the far from dominant college player who lasted until pick No. 33 despite having off-the-chart measurables but as the rare physical specimen who’s only scratched the surface of his potential. And a half-full type of person will see Randall and Rollins not as two of the worst corners in all of football last season but as a pair of talented players whose sophomore seasons were sabotaged by injuries.
Without seeing any of the aforementioned players since last winter, it’s impossible to know exactly how things will unfold at cornerback this season. But it’s safe to assume nobody will be comparing this group to the one that led the Packers to a Super Bowl victory in 2010. Fortunately, this year’s group doesn’t have to be as good. With the return of quality veteran safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and the expected improvement at dime linebacker with speedy rookie Josh Jones, the corners simply have to be adequate. And while there’s no guarantee even that’ll be the case, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
Of course, how the corners fare this season will not entirely depend on them. The pass rush needs to be better than it was a year ago. Forget the respectable number of sacks (40), the Packers failed to get consistent pressure against the better offensive lines. In fact, nearly a third of their sacks came against the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks, two of the worst O-lines in the National Football League in 2016.
When a defense struggles to consistently get to the QB as the Packers did in 2016, the GM often throws big money at the problem in the offseason – especially when one of the best pass rushers leaves in free agency. The sack-starved Jaguars, for example, signed ex-Cardinal defensive lineman Calais Campbell to a $60M deal. But Thompson took a different approach. He drafted Vince Biegel in round 4 and crossed his fingers that porcelain dolls Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will finally stay healthy and that Kyler Fackrell will stop getting bullied by offensive tackles. Hmmm. What a minute, this is beginning to sound familiar.
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