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Cory's Corner: Toughest Test for Packers' Secondary

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Cory's Corner: Toughest Test for Packers' Secondary

If you’re still wondering why the Packers went with two defensive backs to start the draft for the third time in four years, you don’t need to look any further than the NFC North. 

Last year, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were the top receiving duo in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Add in Kyle Rudolph, who seems like he has been in Minnesota for like 15 years. (This will be the sure-handed tight end’s eighth season.) Thielen had a breakthrough season and proved that he can be a No. 1 wideout and Diggs has some proving of his own in a contract year.

Next are the Lions. Golden Tate led all wide receivers with 22 broken tackles and Marvin Jones led all wideouts with 16 deep throws last year. Kenny Golladay raised some eyebrows as a rookie and will give Matthew Stafford another weapon.

The Bears could make this list this time next year with Allen Robinson firmly affixed as the team’s No. 1 receiver.

I was lukewarm on the Packers taking two straight corners, but the NFC North is on the verge of a rebranding. You know how the old “Black and Blue Division” was three yards and a cloud of dust?

Well, this isn’t your dad’s NFC North or NFC Central as it were. With Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford and an improving Mitch Trubisky, the division will be leaning on the pass like never before.

Which means, the guys that defend the pass will have an enormous task. Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Josh Jones, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson cannot afford to be average. That group has to excel because the moment that happens is when the defense consistently gets off the field on third down.

That’s a lot to ask from King who is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury, Williams who’s 35, Jones who hasn’t been truly tested yet, Clinton-Dix who looked lost last year and Alexander and Jackson are bound to have rookie growing pains.

Those six players will determine how successful the Packers will be this season. And it does matter how much of a push Nick Perry and Clay Matthews get on the outside, but those six have to play aggressive and make receivers think twice about the routes they run against them.

It’s been a passing league for a while now, but the NFC North has been a little late to the party with mediocre quarterback play from Chicago and Minnesota in the past.

Things are about to change and Green Bay’s defensive backs are about to be put through the most difficult challenge a Packers’ secondary has ever faced.


Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (64) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

EddieLeeIvory's picture


EddieLeeIvory's picture

Curious: hypothetical yes, but be honest as possible.

How much is it worth to YOU....How much real $ would u pay to have the Packers beat the Patriots in this season's Super Bowl? Please be honest, don't just throw out a huge $# like you're Bill Gates wealthy...

For me, I'd definitely spend at least $500 right now to guarantee it. Maybe more. In 2010 I spent about that betting against us our final 6 do-or-die games. So I felt like I DID ACTUALLY buy the Super Bowl.


Turophile's picture

Not even 1 cent (or since I'm English, that would be one penny).

If the Packers cannot do it on their own merits, I am not interested. It's all about the team, so even as a hypothetical

When I first began supporting the Packers (1988) they had been rubbish for many years. I picked them as a long-term underdog, and they rewarded me with one of the finest sustained runs by any team in the modern era (puts on cheesehead and shouts "Go Pack Go").

Finwiz's picture

Don't think I ever heard anybody refer to the Packers as rubbish!
That's a first.

DThomas's picture

"In 2010 I spent about that betting against us our final 6 do-or-die games. So I felt like I DID ACTUALLY buy the Super Bowl." How irrational of you!

Point Packer's picture

(fart noise)

ricky's picture

So, you're suggesting the fans give money to a money making, very successful multi billion dollar corporation so they can be more successful? What next? Helping China create jobs? Oh, wait...

Turophile's picture

I feel ok about the backfield as it stands now. Sure there will be growing pains, but the quality of recent additions should finally sort it out. 2019 though is where it should really all come together.

It has taken a long time to get that backfield sorted (as I hope it is now). In the last five years, of the ten draft picks in the top two rounds the Packers have used seven on DBs.

In the past, poor draft choices (Randall, Rollins), failure to use DBs properly and then letting them go (Hayward, Hyde), and a DC who time had passed by, all added together to force GB to keep drafting there.

Now they have a new GM, a new DC, three corners added that were all among the top 2-4 guys available in their draft year, two savvy vets to smooth the youth transition. Finally, they should be sorted.

The double-dip at CB this year, and a top pick there last year, mean other positions (like WR, TE, OLB) have been neglected, but at last the core of the cornerback group (King, Alexander, Jackson), look like they could be a mainstay of the defense, until, say 2025.

Roll on 2019 where OLB, TE, and maybe a high pick at WR can finally be addressed..............anything but another DB !!!

gr7070's picture

Who's the second savvy vet after Williams?

It's not House. At least one can't tell that by watching him play. He may be savvy, but he's bad at football.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I like all these office pools on when someone's baby will be born. We should start one for when House will be cut.

It will be a blessed event indeed.

Finwiz's picture

I can get down with that!

Can we have one for Perry and Matthews too? They're always injured anyway, so I'm not sure why they lug this "dead" cap weight around.

gr7070's picture

They did it because of the NFC North: Green Bay Packers.

That's it.

Well, that and modern football can't be played with one poor CB like they tried at the end of last season.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

The change in this pass defense is radical.

Just recently, we had absolutely no one who could cover big, fast outside receivers. Now we have King, Jackson, and even Williams can help while tutoring the young talent.

We had absolutely no one who could cover slot receivers. Now we have Alexander, and perhaps Pipkins.

We had absolutely no one who could cover RB's and TE's . Now we have Josh Jones and Oren Burks.

We had a D-Coordinator who employed the worst possible scheme for modern offenses, while consistently putting players out of their natural positions (moving to new teams like San Diego and Buffalo resembled entering the Pearly Gates). Now we have a D-Coordinator who should at least be tolerable.

What an overhaul. Ted started it, but he created the whole disaster in the first place. I can't believe how many fans kept defending "the leadership," insisting these imbeciles and fossils "knew what they were doing."

Oh well, there's hope now--provided McCarthy stays as far away from the defense as possible. Maybe Pettine could file a restraining order...

dobber's picture

Dear Santa,
I hope you've had the opportunity to knock back a couple Molson's (with Canada being so close to the North Pole, and all) after your annual December escapades. Lord knows I did. Now that you're well-rested, I was hoping you could deliver a few things for the Packers' secondary in 2018:
1. good health
2. a fully-recovered shoulder for Kevin King
3. Tramon Williams to continue to play as if he's closer to Kevin King's age than mine.
4. good health
5. starting CB level play out of at least one--or both--of Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson
6. a clue for HHCD
7. good health
8. a credible starter at SS
9. a 10-pack of tutorial videos on Mike Pettine's defense
10. a self-help video on good communication
and 11. of course, good health.
Thanks, and--as always--you'll find a package of Nutter Butters and a fifth of Wild Turkey waiting for you when you visit in December.

fthisJack's picture

who the eff put a dislike on this post???

Johnblood27's picture

Santa is a Makers Mark guy...

just sayin...

Carry on

dobber's picture

With the volume he needs to work in, he might be more of a Members Mark kind of guy...

Lare's picture

It's a long night for Santa, I think he wants more than a fifth.

lou's picture

Great post Dobber, just going by the law of averages with all of the draft capital spent by the Packers on the secondary the last few years we are bound to hit 1 or 2 gems, like we did with Hayward and Hyde. Both of those guys had real football IQ's and instincts, the one hand back handed pick by Hyde I had never seen before on any level of football. Our #1 pick has all of the measureables for a CB and our #2 pick looks like he has the same qualities of Hayward and Hyde, his back to backs against UW and Ohio State two of the best teams in the country speak for his skills. Merry Christmas to you.

flackcatcher's picture

Second lou here. Great post Dobber. For all the problems this team had last year, injuries were a killer. At the end, they had no healthy CB and only one SS. A living nightmare for the secondary last season. No 123 is health for this position group and this team. Without that, a successful season, much less the Superbowl is a pipe dream.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Agreed, and I'm also anxious to see guys like Perry and Biegel up their games--Matthews and Gilbert should benefit as well.

It will be nice to see fewer tackles just steering our outside guys deep, since QB's will spend more time backpedaling.

Lare's picture

My sleepers for the season are Montravius Adams and Reggie Gilbert. Both are young and eager to make a name for themselves after a wasted season last year.

Lare's picture

Biegel probably, although everyone has higher expectations for him. Rollins would probably be the ultimate sleeper because not many people expect him to make the roster, let alone be productive.

Coldworld's picture

If Rollins makes the team it will be as a safety. In that role he would be competing as a back up.

Beigel is effectively a rookie as having missed camp he then played coming off the kind of injury that physically slows, or causes mental hesitation or both. He is therefore a rookie and we would ordinarily expect one at his draft pick and position.

4thand1's picture

Just make a play on 3rd and long. I swear it's the most frustrating thing to see this team unable to get off of the field on 3rd down.

Nick Perry's picture

With three 1st's and two 2nd's playing a large number of the snaps this year this secondary BETTER be up for the challenge. Hell if you add in Rollins who may or may not be back that's SIX 1st and 2nd round draft choices just since 2014. Throw in Williams who I think will be a great addition and House who if he ends up playing even average would be considered gravy.

Chuck Farley's picture

Keep in perspective Ted and gutt made these guys ones and twos. 31 other teams passed so they were available to us. King had a huge history of shoulder injuries in college. Maybe some teams had him as a 4 or 5 pick.


Nick Perry's picture

No, Ted made those guys one's and two's, Gutekunst just made Alexander and Jackson a one and a two. Funny thing is I feel better about Alexander and Jackson than I do about King and Jones.

I've posted time and again all the failed picks by Thompson. All the DEFENSIVE picks for example over a 3 year span and the defense was STILL atrocious. The lack of involvement in FA or making a trade. Ted IS the reason the Packers have ONE SB in his 13 years. Christ give Bill Belichek Favre and then Rodgers over 13 years and I bet he has at least 3 SB's, probably more.

GBPDAN1's picture

I totally agree, Nick Perry. TT was completely incompetent regarding the building of our D since the end of 2010 season (SB year). 2014 was the closest thing to a reputable D , but aside from that D, the other 6 Ds that he fielded were disasters.

He spent the majority of his high draft picks on D and still failed. Ted has failed AR and Packers fans as 1 or 2 more SB trophies should have came to GB in the last 7 years.

BYE BYE Ted as GM!!

Ferrari Driver's picture

Coaching may have played a part in the failure to have a defense representative of the draft choices dedicated to its improvement.

worztik's picture

I would have mentioned the entirety of this year’s schedule as a reason for good DB play! We have the toughest schedule in the league and way more GOOD QBs than just our division! Tough year ahead...

worztik's picture

Mr. Spader, You missed the point of my comment and, apparently, the original article! It talked about tough QBs in our division, which is true, but, the rest of the QBs we play are no cupcakes!!! That’s what I was saying and strength of schedule is not what we’re talking about... just sayin’...

worztik's picture

I don’t want to argue with you Spider-Man... the article was about our “DBs”... not ARod’s health, Perry and Mathews, injuries or anything but, our DBs!!! You went off on Santa tangential comments, the pass rush et all and injuries to ARod, when the topic was our DBs! I try to be succinct and to the point while staying on topic! I’m sorry if you find my writing a bit confusing but, you should hear me talk!!! haha ;~€)

WKUPackFan's picture

Your original comment referenced that the Packers will face the toughest schedule this year. Then your next comment totally contradicts that by saying "strength of schedule is not what we're talking about".

Perhaps you should try to stay on topic, or at least figure out what topic you are addressing.

worztik's picture

Read them again WHO... you are a pain in my ass!!! You come here to cause trouble without ever making anything but, nonsensical negative comments!!! I salute you with only my middle finger!!!

WKUPackFan's picture

By the way worztik, 134,487 people attended Pimlico for the Preakness yesterday, but I'm sure you still believe that no one cares about horse racing or the Triple Crown.

worztik's picture


Johnblood27's picture

Rollins needs to move to safety and compete with HHCD, Jones, Brice, Evans and Whitehead for a roster spot. Greene is a camp body at best.

He will not make this roster as a CB, and maybe not at safety.

King, Alexander, Jackson, Williams, House, Waters, Hawkins, Pipkins, Brown. 9 guys for a max of 6 spots. If the last 4 do not show signs of promise to ascend to starter level play within a year or 2, they will be gone.

There isnt room on the 53 for long term development projects, that was TT's downfall, not enough immediacy in the assembly of the 53.

Goodson is a waste of space on the 90 man TC roster, no way he makes the 53.

Community Guy's picture

good post.. i have shaken my head every year that Goodson made the roster over needed depth elsewhere. i am not sure on "TT's downfall".. he was always drafting late in rounds.. he always had left-overs to choose from. i was high on Rollins, now, i don't know if he makes the 53.. safety does need competition.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I'm not high on House, but I think the Pipkins, Brown, Waters, and Hawkins battle could be the best in camp. They all have strong ability and ascending skills.

Pipkins is the favorite, but look out for Brown as a dark horse.

Coldworld's picture

House will compete IF used in press man. Tough and gives full effort even when dinged up. That has value as depth. I think he will stay.

The bottom end of the CB ranks need to prove that they can actually be players that can be relied on to fill a role competently at the nfl level. The upgrades in competition remove the opportunity for the barely adequate upside types to survive this year. That is a good thing.

Rollins is simply not physically equipped to be an NFL CB or to keep up with this group. He and we deserve a chance to see him compete for safety.

Chuck Farley's picture

I gave gutts draft a c- as a show me first. After three years of failing at defensive back drafting i`m waiting before I raise that grade up. If per chance these two newbies can't cut it, then Rodgers will more than likely squander the rest of his years as an also ran and non playoff contender. It ain't like our comp is going to get worse anytime soon.

Turophile's picture

Well, that was an incomprehensible post !
You tell us we must wait on a proper grade and then grade it anyway, you want the bird in the hand AND the two in the bush......
what is 'our comp' ?
why call Gutekunst 'gutts'?

As for (to paraphrase you) "Rodgers will squander his years, if Alexander and Jackson don't cut it ? Playing to win isn't squandering anything, even if a SB isn't forthcoming. You ever hear the quote about the journey being more important than the destination - that's true for fans, coaches and players.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

What in the world is a Turo? The only thing I can find is a car rental company. [Slow news days lately, so why not?]

Turophile's picture

Turophile means a connoisseur of cheese, ie 'cheese lover'.

Type two words: 'Turophile' and 'dictionary' into google, to see that.

4thand1's picture

Is swiss your favorite? You know, the holes, lol

Spock's picture

Turophile, I didn't realize that was what your screen name meant. As someone married to the grand-daughter of an award winning cheese maker (many people don't realize that the world cheese competition has historically always been held in Wisconsin) I suspect we have more in common than I realized. One thing about moving to Tucson 13 years ago; they seem to think "aged cheese" is measured in months. My wife prefers 7-10 year cheddar, but I prefer 5 year (we get it from Wisconsin) as I find the 7 year too 'grainy' for me. I've dabbled in making home-made cheeses (Farmer cheese is the easiest: just heat a gallon of whole milk to just under boiling and add a 1/4 cup lemon juice or white wine vinegar to make curd = about a pound of cheese) and have had success with the easier ones (Farmer and Ricotta) and limited success in making mozzarella, but truly enjoy the 'real' artisan cheeses out there (the more stinky the better, lol). I recall you recently saying you were English so I can only imagine what you think about the so-called American 'cheese' product, lol. I miss going to the wine and cheese tastings that the PBS channel used to do when I lived in Wisconsin (sigh). I typically have 5 or 6 different types of cheese in my fridge at any one time (take out to come to room temp before eating, of course). Stay hungry, my friend! :)

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

So I outsmarted myself again? I assumed I knew what phile meant and so I googled only turo instead of turophile. Even turos would have worked. Two out of three obvious google search terms and I pick the one that didn't supply immediate results. Oh well, it isn't the first time and won't be the last time

Turophile's picture

@Spock. I do love my cheese, but my favourites are fairly mundane, at least I think they are, they may sound exotic to those living in America.
vintage Jarlsburg
Red Leicester
Cheddar (great melted on toast, with bacon and mushrooms on the side)
Manchego (Spanish hard cheese, made from sheep's milk).
Cottage cheese (when mixed with chopped avocado, lemon juice and pepper)
Add the occasional serving of Stilton, Danish Blue, French Brie, for variety.

Turophile's picture

@Thegreat reynoldo.
Turophile is a great name for a Packer fan. I cannot claim to be the original Turophile (from many years back), who was a dedicated attender of training camp, and wrote up reports of what he/she saw there. They stopped posting many years ago, and I liked the name enough to take it up, when I realised the original version was posting no more.

Spock's picture

Turophile, Agree with everything on your list (especially Stilton) except for Cottage cheese (I find this "dieter's choice" completely tasteless). Love the screen name and glad you "absconded" with it from the former commenter no longer using it. I love using Brie mixed with cream cheese, diced pancetta/or prosciutto, S & P, and diced green onions inside a folded over hash brown (like a folded omelet) with asparagus spears fanning out of the folded hash brown. It's a great presentation and darn tasty. Well, time to get back to talking football, but nice taking a small "cheesy" diversion here in the comments section with you. :)

DD's picture

Defensive backs ate not our problem, it's the rish pressure. Every QB shredded us on third downs!! No rush, 5 seconds in the pocket, ouch!!

DD's picture

Our, rush...opps

Coldworld's picture

Chicken and egg. Our D had a habit of letting recievers and TEs get in to acres of space. Coverage sacks were largely a thing other teams did to us.

I am hopeful that our rush will be more unpredictable and multi faceted under Pettine. That should increase the number of angles that opposing QBs have to read and, with speed if nothing else, our secondary should be able to close holds and regain coverage more often if the rush does not he home.

HankScorpio's picture

You're right that asking DBs to cover for 5 seconds or more is a big ask. But so is asking the pass rush to generate instant pressure on every down. I didn't chart how quickly the ball got out of the QB's hands but my perception is that the Packers would be below the defensive league average. Meaning the ball gets out quicker because people are getting open more easily than the league average.

Based on the offseason, the Packer brass seems more concerned with the latter than the former. There wasn't much around to dismantle in the secondary but they sure tried anyway in trading Randall away and letting Burnett walk for a modest contract elsewhere. That's not a ringing endorsement.

Their draft showed they felt like they needed coverage more than pass rush in no uncertain terms. After Chubb, they had their choice of pass rushers and decided to trade out. They opted for coverage help with their first 3 picks. The only edge rusher they drafted seems destined for a year or two on the PS.

porupack's picture

Good post Cory. I agree that the investment in CB was high priority and probably key to winning the division is to challenge the rising passing games of NFC N.

But Packers were just a likely killed on 3rd down by quick routes from TE and dump offs passes to RBs as well. So there's that to factor in your theory if indeed Gute is cognizant of the rising arial challenge in NFC North. Do you think Gute drafted to address this vulnerability?

Finally.. if your theory is true:
"if you’re still wondering why the Packers went with two defensive backs to start the draft for the third time in four years, you don’t need to look any further than the NFC North."
Any thoughts about what schematic changes to expect if GB intends to challenge the division foes more effectively?

Coldworld's picture

Isn’t that exactly what Burkes was drafted for?

May not be ready or adequate, but we also have a couple of similar attribute UDFAs on the roster, perhaps as possible backups to the new cover backer role.

HankScorpio's picture

"Any thoughts about what schematic changes to expect if GB intends to challenge the division foes more effectively?"

It sure seems like they are going to try to disrupt routes at the LoS much more than they did last year. To me, that is the key to taking an offense off their timing. That's job #1 for pass defense.

There was a pretty good deep dive into press coverage @ a few days ago.

4thand10's picture

Chicago ran Howard more than Tribisky (??) threw seemed like. That whole offense looked like it was centered around Jordan Howard more so than QB play. Regardless of who Chicago has at WR, Mitch has to prove he can throw. He just handed it off to Jordan Howard all year. Cousins is transitioning to a different offense than he had at Washington and I can't help but wonder if the Vikings will do what they have always done...Which is relying on a good running game. Latavious Murray is healthy (which he really wasn't last year and presumably Cook is ready to go. As for Detroit...Stafford is good but I wouldn't put him in the elite catagory. Every teams QBs looked like all -stars against our pass D. I hope to see improvement in not only our players but schematicly as well.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Minnesota is so loaded at the skill positions, it's crazy. Only a key injury on their O-line could slow down that group.

That said, I love the defense we're building to counter.

DD's picture

Article is not sold on our secondary at all. Talk about all the north great receivers? Well get back to fundamentals and a nasty press attitude, with a much needed rush and the defenders will be fine. Our rush pressure was the problem for some time now. My greatest concern is Matthews and Perry being healthy all season which I predict won't happen. Add Beigel? Who knows? So rush pressure is still my major concern since 2010 until something is shown.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

One thing that really helps is our improving depth in the front 7, since that allows Pettine to go 3-4 or 4-3 depending on health (like with Perry and Matthews) and opponent.

We have so many options now, so an injury or two is no longer the end of all things.

Coldworld's picture

Agreed. That and not just doing the same things in given circumstances. Rush was largely predictable just like the rest of Capers D. Pettine uses a lot of disguise. Make the O unsure what is coming and from where and whom.

Lare's picture

One thing I think will help our defensive backs immensely is going up against Adams, Cobb and the other WR's during training camp practices every day. We'll see how good they are trying to defend 6'3" receivers with 4.4 speed.

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"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."
"The Bears still suck!"
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall. "