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Joe Whitt Not Looking Back at Cornerback

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Joe Whitt Not Looking Back at Cornerback

Green Bay Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, Jr. doesn't appear interested in revisiting the past when it comes to his players.  Earlier this week, he quickly squashed any question about his level of concern over the play of his corners in 2016.

On the surface and in purely looking at the pass defense numbers, the Packers weren't stellar in 2016.  They gave up 4,308 yards, good for 31st in the league.  Yardage surrendered alone isn't a very good indicator of how well a defense performed, but giving up a lot of yardage also doesn't typically bode well.

And pass defense falls on all 11 guys on the defense.  Pass rush, linebacker play and safety help are factors beyond the cornerbacks.  Without getting too deep into the real issue behind the pass defense, let's just agree that the Packers corners had their issues.

Whitt alluded to the sudden loss of Sam Shields, the loss of Casey Hayward in free agency and the injuries to Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins.  All played a role in how the pass defense performed.  He referred to 2016 as a "difficult year".  But that was last year and this is 2017.

Whitt is already looking straight ahead and letting the past continue to flow under the bridge.  The Packers added Kevin King with their first draft pick earlier this spring and brought back veteran Davon House.  Randall and Rollins have both been practicing during camp and both appear to be looking improved.

Rollins especially has impressed so far and according to many covering the team, has passed Randall on the depth chart.  Randall was slated to move inside anyway, a role that seems more suited to his style and skill set.  Rollins jumping ahead could prove to be a blessing in disguise.  If he can man the outside while King gets himself ready to assume a starting role, the pass defense has a chance to start hot.

In the NFC championship game, the Atlanta Falcons boat raced the Packers and took advantage of a beat up and tired secondary.  If the Packers are going to make more noise this season, the secondary needs to mirror what it has been in past successful seasons.

Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Tramon Williams aren't walking through that door and it's hard to replace players of that caliber.  But with the improvement of Rollins and the hopeful bounce back of Rollins and Randall, the secondary should return to being one of the best in taking away the football this season.

Whitt has proven to be one of the better cornerbacks coaches in the NFL over the past several seasons.  Many feel that it's only a matter of time before he's a head coach.  If true, the Packers have a steal in the guy who is tasked with developing some of the most talented young players on the Green Bay roster.

With House, Rollins, Randall, LaDarius Gunter in a back up role and King the corner position could quickly go from a position of question marks to a strength for the Packers.  Green Bay kicks off the season with the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals in the first three weeks of the season.  Those corners will get an early chance to show us where they're at.

Practicing against one of the best quarterbacks and wide receiver groups in the NFL every day can't hurt.  Hopefully that builds some confidence that carries over to the field when the real games start.  Between improved play and health, the corner group is going to factor heavily on how well the Packers 2017 season turns out.  With Whitt leading the charge, hopefully they can forge a new standard and keep the past disappointments in the rear view mirror.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (32) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

I've always thought Whitt was one of the better CB Coaches in the NFL. I was looking at his Bio on Packers.com and it's pretty impressive actually. The Packers lead the NFL in interceptions (165) since Whitt took over as CB coach and are #5 in opponent passer rating. Since 2009 the Packers rank 4th in both opponent completion percentage and TD to INT ratio.

I look at what he did with Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, he helped turn them into ball hawking Pro Bowl CB's. Whitt will do his part in helping the defense get back on track, I don't worry about him. It's some of the other defensive coaches that concern me a little bit.

sonomaca's picture

Please elaborate.

Mojo's picture

The opponent passer rating stat is impressive, but they've got to carry that into the post-season.

zekester's picture

Sounds like you are hoping for rain during a 30 day drought with this pass defense..we all know it starts with a good pass rush and where that's gonna come from is another Scooby Doo mystery to be solved..miracles do happen but maybe lucky is more likely to be the best hope for this ragtag unit of under achievers..to bad we couldn't have lured Wade Phillps here and bounced Cupcake Capers to the curb..if Wade was in charge of this defense hope would be a reality instead of just wishing on a star!

Pack88's picture

Wade Phillips is only as good as the player's he has on the field! Do you not recall Rodgers and Brady torching the Texans while he was there! With a great pass rush and 3 pro-bowl secondary players I could coach the defense!

Rodgers also lit up the Cowboys while Phillips was there. Had GB spent the money and bought Aquib Talib et al we would be talking how McCarthy can't coach and Rodgers needs help!

marcopo's picture

Fans always forget the fact that coaches don't play. Execution rests on the players.

RCPackerFan's picture

I am liking our CB position right now. Rollins is taking a big step forward. It sounds like Randall has been making plays as well.
King while he has struggled some, some of that is to be expected since he really didn't get to practice at all in the off season due to that stupid NFL/College football rule.

With Whitt as our CB coach, I completely believe he will get the very most out of each player.

al bundy's picture

I hear what your saying but deja vu, we've been on this road before and randle, rollins and gunther seem to suffer from calf and leg injuries soon after the season starts.
Hope im wrong but maybe they arent built to take the punishment? One thing for sure its make it r break it career wise if these guys fall on their face again this year.

egbertsouse's picture

I've now read in multiple sources how the pass defense has been great when you look at the numbers. My response is when you give them the eye test, they usually stink. I hear about what a great coach Whitt has been but I don't see it on the field.

Since '61's picture

The defense doesn't pass the eye test because they give up easy TDs far too often either at the end of the half or late in the game and allow the opponent back in the game. The other problem is that when they play poorly for an entire game (e.g., Atlanta NFCCG game) they look non-competitive. Hopefully with the additions of King, Jones, House, Francois and eventually M. Adams the level of on field talent will improve and the results will as well. We should know where we are at with the defense after the first 3-4 games of the season. Until then its all hype and speculation. Thanks, Since '61

marpag1's picture

My response would be that the numbers probably aren't less reliable than your "eye test," and your "eye test" probably isn't more reliable than the numbers.

I'm not saying that numbers and stats tell the whole story. They don't. But in my opinion, NFL fans (me included) tend to take the counsel of their fears. In other words, most other teams look so terribly imposing and virtually unbeatable, but when we look at our own teams we immediately focus on the weakest links, and wring our hands about how on earth we're going to match up to the juggernauts we have created in our minds. Or to say it differently, a lot of fans have this vague idea that other teams never give up the big play, never get gouged by the run - even when facing a historically great offense like Atlanta in the NFCCG - never have a subpar starter etc. But when we look at our own team all we can see is that Gunter could not hang with Julio. No, only OUR defense will get gashed. So while I am not doubting anybody's football expertise, I don't think that the "eye test" is always so reliable either.

I'm a lifelong student of the US Civil War. One quote from Union General US Grant has always stuck with me. When he was a young general, he was obviously a bit worried about his ability to perform on the battle field. In his memoirs, he talks about how he overcame this problem:

"As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see [the enemy] camp, and possibly find his men already formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois ... When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where [the enemy] had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that [the enemy] had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards ... I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his."

al bundy's picture

Ive always agreed with jimmy johnsons phil. Yu cant coach speed. Either a player comes in with it or they dont and a coach aint making anyone faster. Two of our d backs lack speed for sure. All the coaching in the world wont help covering tall fast receivers.

Oppy's picture

The fastest man doesn't automatically win in the NFL. Sure, it helps, but there are a couple dozen of would-be NFL wr's who are blazing fast and don't make the cut every single preseason.

They still have to run routes, they still have to adjust, they still have to gain and maintain proper leverage on the defender, find the seam or hole in the zones to sit down in.

There are ways to negate speed. A speedy WR can be negated by strong press at the LOS. Safety over the top. Creative disguising of coverage... Or just by a crafty defender funneling the route to exactly where he wants it to go.

LayingTheLawe's picture

They haven't played yet this year, so the eye tests you mentioned are out of date and a new test is required. But yes last season the Packers defense was a M*A*S*H unit and was painful to watch.

jlc1's picture

Here's a question - Mike McCarthy is to Bill Belichick as what QB is to Aaron Rodgers? Matthew Stafford maybe? Joe Flacco?

Jonathan Spader's picture

Tom Brady

JohnnyLogan's picture

As Zeke said, it starts with Capers and he's a failed DC having designed defenses that have set negative records over multiple seasons with differing groups of defensive backs. Players and teams have feasted on Capers yet we focus each season on the coaches and the potential of the players. And with that I don't see much potential in this group of CB's. As I said in another thread, who is going to cover the great receivers, Julio and Antonio Brown and even the lesser quality receivers that roasted us like Stefon Diggs and Marvin Jones?... House, who was benched last year and talks better than he plays?... King, a rookie who hasn't exactly been tearing it up in training camp?... Gunter, who's so slow he's an invitation to every QB to go deep?... Randall, who gets turned around more than a Tango dancer?... Rollins, who I like, as a slot cover but has very little experience outside?... Who will be covering the other team's #1, or #2 for that matter? And who will admit that Capers has no clothes on? This back end may be saved somewhat because we have an outstanding safety group, but it won't be enough. I don't see the potential in this group. But miracles do happen. Maybe someone at the bottom of the CB group will turn into a Sam Shields and we will unexpectedly find a #1 corner. We don't have one right now.

Since '61's picture

I'm not a big fan of Capers either, but to be fair, during his tenure as DC the Packers have been in the playoffs every season with double digit wins except 2013 when Rodgers was injured for 8 games. To achieve that the defense can't be that awful. Yes, 2016 was a terrible year for the pass defense and yes Rodgers and the offense have carried the team as far as they go every season, but winning 10+ games every season tells me the defense does OK during the regular season. The problem has been and remains that the defense has not had the talent necessary to stop the better offensive teams that we face during the playoffs. Dropped picks cost us a playoff game in 2013 and in 2015. We know enough about the collapse in Seattle in 2014 and the obliteration of the defense in Atlanta last season, but this is a new season and let's see what we have with the FAs and rookies brought in this offseason. As I posted above we'll have an idea about this defense after the first 3-4 regular season games. Hopefully they remain healthy so that we can accurately judge their regular season and playoff performances. Thanks, Since '61

zeke's picture

Capers was a much better DC when he had Nick Collins, Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson, Desmond Bishop, et al, than he is now, to be sure.

Don Hutson's picture

This year the safety and corner positions may be the strength of the defense. Hope the line and linebackers can do their part!

JohnnyLogan's picture

With all those dislikes I'm rethinking. Capers is a pretty good DC. Our defense has been good since 2010, we've just been unlucky. I love the potential of our current CB group.

Any of that sound truthful? I know the usual defenses of Capers; he's been good in the past, he does the best he can with what he's got, it's TT's fault for not giving him better players... given those excuses are an annual thing, Capers should continue in his current capacity indefinitely because if he loses, it's bad players, if he wins, he's a winner. He'll still be sitting in his aerie drooling down at the field in his 90's, and there will still be those who will revel when he wins and excuse when he loses. That's what comes of not having an owner (or lacking that, a Lombardi). Any owner who hasn't won more than one SB with Aaron Rodgers by this time would have shipped Capers ass out of town after last season, or maybe earlier, after Kaepernick ran all over us, or after the 3rd or 4th or 5th QB or WR who set personal or team records against our D. Yes, we've made the playoffs, but is that really because Capers has done his job? To judge him more accurately evaluate how our D has done against the better teams in the playoffs. Since our SB victory we've been in the playoffs every year, and been eliminated each year, having given up an average of 34 points per game. Wonder how Brady would have done with defenses like that. Like I said, he's a bum.

marcopo's picture

Sorry Johnny, Capers is an outstanding DC. However he's as good as the tools he has in the bag. The Packers just haven't been ultra successful in drafting playmakers. Second, his defenses are fairly complex and are more suited to veteran players, The rotation of the roster keeps his unit very young. This handicap will dissipate as some of these young players mature. I'm very hopeful that this years unit will make us forget '16. Our safeties should be amongst the league's best. Brice and Jones have great promise in today's defenses, which are changing the size and shape of linebackers. Finally we have the talent to speed up and cover the middle. I'm optimistic, but time will tell. Remember that no coach can execute.

Finwiz's picture

Excellent post - don't let the green and gold kool-aid drinkers get to you.
There's too many fans that aren't objective about this team, particularly the defense.

marcopo's picture

This is the time of year wherein optimism reigns. Objectivity will be determined by the score at the end of the game.

Finwiz's picture

We've seen many scores in the past. Unfortunately we have a D that gives up 30+ on a routine basis.

JohnnyLogan's picture

Typical Capers D, rush 3 against 5. QB has all day to find a receiver. It's been a constant for him, with constant results. Every CB can be an all-pro and still can't defend this. Ridiculous D from a ridiculous coach, that we've all become programmed to think of as a genius. I just don't get it.

https://youtu.be/d31m7KdQ9IE

Finwiz's picture

You ain't the only one that don't get it. He needed to be gone. I'll be shocked if they crack the top 10-15 in Yards allowed.

Finwiz's picture

Jesus, from what I'm hearing Kevin King had a baaaad night last night against Jordy and Cobb. Didn't appear to have the closing speed as advertised. I'm very worried we're going to see the same defensive struggles as last year without a significant improvement in pass rush.

donnyanderson44's picture

I concur with the comments regarding Capers. He should have been gone long ago. His bend but don't break defenses have always made it a harrowing experience to watch a game. Then the inevitable playoff embarrassment. I'll respect this coach when his defense can be relied upon to win games. Under this coach this hasn't happened with any consistency. His defenses have never instilled fear into the opponent. With hitters like Brice and Jones maybe this the year we instill that fear.

BELIEVER's picture

So now with hitters, so what is it NO players or Capers. Come on 44 what is it?

flackcatcher's picture

Don Capers FOREVER! JANIS TOO!!!

BPEARSON21's picture

I wouldn't look back at last season either if I was the secondary coach. Whitt is smart enough to know if Rodgers didn't drag this team to the play offs every year he'd be fired so damn fast lol

Any non-play off team who has their secondary ranked second to last isn't keeping any of those coached around.

I'm not saying we should fire Whitt, but let's put all the cards on the table... if we didn't have Rodgers, we wouldn't be making the play offs every year and our whole coaching staff probably would've been fired a while ago.

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