Corners Are The Key To D

The Packers have been a good defensive team exactly one time since winning Super Bowl XLV. In 2014, that side of the ball surrendered only 19.2 points per game in the second half of a season that shouldn’t have ended in the NFC title game. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or even Inspector Jacques Clouseau to figure out what made that particular defense so effective – very good talent and incredible depth at the cornerback position.

A still in his prime Tramon Williams and Pro Bowler Sam Shields were the starters, and the backups were Casey Hayward, Davon House, and Micah Hyde. Think about that for a minute. The three players who weren’t good enough to start in that secondary would go on to sign deals worth a combined $70M as free agents in the next few years.

But the 2014 defense wasn’t strong along the D-line or at inside linebacker. Letroy Guion, Josh Boyd, and A.J. Hawk played 1,917 combined snaps. Suspect talent at those two positions applies to this year’s team as well. Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and De’Vondre Campbell could see nearly as many snaps. But when a defense has quality corners, it makes everyone else just a little better. Or if you want to look at it another way, just a little less mediocre.

That brings us to 2021. Look, nobody knows if Joe Barry will even be an upgrade over Mike Pettine, and it’s doubtful Lowry and Campbell are suddenly going to become J.J. Watt and Ray Lewis in their sixth seasons. For the defense to get significantly better, the play at cornerback must get significantly better. The good news is there’s some legitimate talent at the position. Jaire Alexander is one of the best players in the league, and the Packers drafted Eric Stokes in round 1 for a reason. If Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan don’t have to be on the field for over 100 combined snaps a game, maybe just maybe, the play at cornerback will at least approach the level of 2014.

If general manager Brian Gutekunst hit a home run with Stokes – and early signs suggest he hit at least a double – and if Sullivan and King can settle in as the No. 3 and 4 cornerbacks by the time the playoffs roll around, the play at this position should be good. Not 2014 good, but good enough. Another rookie, fifth-round pick Shemar Jean-Charles is also intriguing.

Along with safeties Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos, edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary, and nose tackle Kenny Clark, there should be enough talent for even a coordinator as questionable as Barry to field a good defense. And with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, good might be all the Packers need to finally get back to the Super Bowl.

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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

5 thoughts on “Corners Are The Key To D

  1. I’d feel a lot better about the secondary had we signed Kyle Fuller like Brian Gutekunst wanted. But a certain QB was more interested in being a drama queen than restructuring his contract to make the team better. The secondary will now have to be good enough as is. A Jaire Alexander injury could be more devastating than an Aaron Rodgers injury. We all know King won’t stay healthy.

  2. I’ve been thinking for a while how good this secondary has a chance to be. Doesn’t have near the depth of 2014, but when you have three starting caliber players at corner and two pro bowl caliber players at safety life is good.

    Now everyone please stay healthy!

  3. Bringing back King never made any sense, and I’m not just saying this now. I thought it at the time. He’s ALWAYS hurt and he needed a fresh start someplace else. That money should’ve gone to a veteran CB who could actually had a chance of staying on the field.

  4. I was actually fully on board with King returning. He’s a solid player. Not great, but not awful. His presence is key so that Stokes won’t be rushed into his starting role. It’ll be fascinating to see how Stokes and Jean-Charles develop. We’ll need at least Stokes this year for sure.

    One thing to keep in mind about the corners in 2014: Hayward at that point was solid but certainly not spectacular. He signed for 5 mil. per – hardly stud money. And it’s amazing to think about Hyde playing corner – he was playing out of position. In other words, I think this group of corners has a real good chance to be better than that 2014 group. As good as Shields and Williams were, they never approached the shut down abililty of what we now have in Alexander who simply erases the opponents WR1. Stokes is the x factor in this group being able to surpass the 2014 group.

    1. I think you’re overrating some of this year’s corners and underrating some of the corners in 2014. Hayward wasn’t a star back then, but he was better than King. And don’t sell Tramon and Shields short. They were both top-10 to 15 corners that season. I’d be thrilled if this group comes anywhere close to that group.

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