There was a lot of talk during training camp about how the Green Bay Packers cornerbacks would line up on the left and right sides of the field, regardless of opponent, instead of matching-up against a particular receiver as they’ve done in the past.
But even the best-laid plans can oft go astray if injuries interfere, such as happened in the early portion of the Packers’ 2013 season.
With safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Casey Hayward sidelined by hamstring injuries, the Packers have had to make due with a makeshift secondary still unsettled three games into the year.
If healthy, Hayward would likely be manning the slot cornerback position in Green Bay, where he was so effective a season ago by grabbing six interceptions and coming in third in the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
In his absence, the Packers have tried rookie Micah Hyde defending the slot, but he has not looked nearly as good when the games have counted compared to his impressive showing in the preseason.
During the second half of last week’s game against Washington, the Packers took advantage of a 31-0 lead to do some experimenting, including playing veteran Tramon Williams in slot, a position he’s rarely played despite this being his seventh year in the league.
On one hand, it’s allowing the 6-1 Davon House to get some experience and snaps on the perimeter, guarding taller wide receivers.
Looking at it another way, however, maybe the Packers were using it as an opportunity to get Williams comfortable in the slot as a way to mirror terrific Bengals receiver A.J. Green wherever he goes.
“I would definitely think he’s doing it because of some of the injuries the Packers have had in the secondary,” said Jahnke. “And I could also see being maybe to prepare for some of the upcoming opponents if these injuries continue.
“I could see the Packers wanting to put Tramon Williams up against A.J. Green against the Bengals, regardless of where Green goes. So they could want Williams to have more time in the slot, so he’s ready for that.”
Granted, Green doesn’t frequently line up in the slot. At 6-4, he’s a bigger threat lining up near the sideline.
But then again, Green has taken eight snaps from the slot this season, according to Pro Football Focus and maybe the Packers want their most savvy cornerback on Green, no matter where he aligns.
And perhaps after Anquan Boldin torched Green Bay in Week 1, the Packers want a better match-up on the Bengals’ top receiving threat rather than getting caught with Hyde, Chris Banjo or Jerron McMillian on Green.
Of course, this is all just speculation. The Packers haven’t come out and declared their plans for Cincinnati, and there’s a good chance they won’t know until they see if Burnett is ready to go later in the week.
Maybe they’ll stick with their left and right cornerback designations, or maybe they’ll just pair up Williams on Green on third downs.
Either way, Green will provide a test. He already has nine catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns on the young season.
If the Packers want to come away from Paul Brown Stadium with a win on Sunday, they’ll have to prevent Green from having a big day, no matter who’s across from him.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email email@example.com.