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Packers Secondary Faces Early Challenge

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Packers Secondary Faces Early Challenge

The Green Bay Packers will face three of the marquis wide receivers in the NFL over their first five games.  Julio Jones in week two, A.J. Green in week three and Dez Bryant in week five.  The Packers secondary better be ready.

Jones and the Atlanta Falcons won times they faced Green Bay last season, the second of which was the NFC championship game in which he went off for 180 yards and two touchdowns.  Bryant missed the regular season game but had 132 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC divisional playoff game.

The Packers have some recent familiarity with Jones and Bryant.  They've only faced Green twice and with four years in between meetings, much can and does change.

Speaking of change, the Packers have a new cornerback in Davon House.  House returned to Green Bay after two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.  After last year's torching by Jones, many were clamoring for cornerback help and improvement.  

In 2014, it was House who stepped in to help on Jones during a late-season game in which Sam Shields had struggled to contain him.  To the naked eye, House seemed to fare better but it was really a hip injury that forced Jones out of that game.  But not before he racked up 259 receiving yards.

Fast forward three years and the Packers still have to prove that they can defend Jones.  Beyond simple cornerback skill and play, the scheme needs to help as well.  Safety help and with some possible changes, the safety/linebacker combo with Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones manning the middle.

Last season it was LaDarius Gunter who drew Jones, with obvious struggles in the postseason.  That matchup isn't fair in any way to begin with.  Put Jones on the turf indoors and it was like watching a guy on foot against a guy on a motorcycle.  Gunter figures to be among the top five on the cornerback depth chart in 2017.

In the case of Bryant, he seems to disappear during the regular season and turn up in the playoffs.  In the 2015 divisional championship game, Bryant had only four catches but it was the one he didn't make that could have been the difference.  The phrase "Dez didn't catch it" lives in infamy, but had it been ruled a touchdown, it could have sent the Packers home early.  

Last season, Bryant caught a late touchdown pass to knot up that game at 28-28 with just over five minutes to go.  Say what you will about him but he's still a great receiver who plays with a lot of emotion.  He turns it on when he wants and I'm sure he's tired of losing to the Packers.

The Packers are moving Damarious Randall into the slot where they say his skill set is better utilized.  We have yet to see this in action so it's too early to tell but Randall does offer more speed than did Micah Hyde, who previously held that role.  Quinten Rollins will also rotate in and with his lack of ability to remain consistent, is still a question mark as to how effective he'll be early on.

Then there's Kevin King, who has yet to don the pads.  The Packers typically like to integrate their rookies slowly and at corner, especially.  A few bad performances to start his career could put a real damper on King's confidence and mental state as he is still learning and adjusting to the pro game.  He may see early action, but not likely without a lot of help from the scheme.

Green Bay will be challenged to start fast in 2017, based on the level of competition they'll face right out of the gate.  To stymie these to pass catchers would set a nice tone and send a message that this Packers secondary is back to being one of the better units in the league.  They'll get a crack at another top wide out in Antonio Brown later in the season when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If the Packers emerge from 2017 with another trip to the playoffs and win 10 games or more, they'll likely have had to handle some of the game's best offensive weapons.  And they'll see more in January.  Standing up to that challenge, by the coaching staff and players themselves, is going to be a big key to the Packers overall success.


-- Jason is a freelance writer and has been on staff since 2012.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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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.

Lphill's picture

On the flip side these teams have Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to deal with , the Packers should fear no team . You can't played scared in the NFL , I am sure every team that see's the Packers on their schedule puts a circle around that game.

Handsback's picture

Jason wrote a very timely piece in that the early schedule will provide a accurate look at the quality of Green Bay's secondary. Since the Packers were bounced from the playoffs by the Falcons, there have been two different schools of thought:
First. the secondary was bad and needed some serious influx of talent.
Second was that the R twins were not that bad, but hurt and could be major players in the NFL.

Fast forward to this season, the previous characters from last years defense will still be playing a more predominate role (exception will be House) in those early contest verses later in the season where Jones and King will be more settled into the defense.

So we will see if indeed Green Bay's R twins are for real by the end of the 7th game.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Yeah, I'm expecting the beginning of the season to be rough. Hopefully Rodgers can score enough to keep up. Eventually things should get better, and hopefully the secondary will be competitive by playoff time.

The TKstinator's picture

I am expecting that the pass defense will struggle early on but will show signs of improvement. Barring injury, (ALWAYS barring injury) I expect that by the latter stages of the season the pass defense will be at least respectable. Not dominant.

However, if dominance does occur, I for one would not be opposed.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Can Rollins play outside, or is he another slot-only selection by Ted at CB?

Randall has already failed at the key outside spot, and I'd like to think we could manage one decent outside CB from our top 2 picks in 2015. (Dear Lord, my expectations have hit rock bottom--they were billed as potential bookends)

All spin/hype about the "Star" position aside, it's the outside CB's who play 100% of the snaps, while usually covering elite receivers. Failing to get even one usable outside CB with our top 2 picks would be disastrous--all "Star" spin aside.

C'mon Rollins, step up outside. We're paper-thin there.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

If he's looking at the QB before the 1st move, he had better be not be playing man.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I do know the game, I know Rollins lacks speed, I understand eye discipline, and there is no justification for your vicious, unprovoked attack.

Wow. That was terrible. I won't respond in kind, but that was really out of line.

Truth is, we wasted multiple high picks to stock the least used starting CB position at the expense of needed outside help. That's the issue.

Unlike you, I will leave needless, unprovoked attacks aside, and simply discuss the issue. It's how I show maturity and respect for fellow posters.

Jason Perone's picture

"Maturity and respect for fellow posters" MAN are you barking up the wrong tree there there. You have a better chance of seeing snow in Phoenix this week.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Like you, I remark on everything--CB's, OLB's, TE's, DL, OL, coaches--and the subject of several recent articles has been CB's and pass defense.

Unlike you, I'll stick to the issues and leave vicious, unprovoked attacks off this site.

Ted's a good GM whom I've often praised, but his usage of higher picks on slower and/or slot-specific CB's has really, really hurt this defense in recent years. Now he's scrambling to play catchup, and this prevents him from spending on assets to bolster the team elsewhere.

Pass defense is the current topic, and I'm highlighting the main reason we're struggling there. Next week, we'll have a different topic--but you'll still be someone launching vicious, unprovoked attacks.

I will not respond in kind.

J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

Injuries were the MAIN reason our pass D was sub par last year. Our only contingency plan once those injuries hit was to play injured, inexperienced, assignment unsure players who were seemingly out of position. The 53 man roster only allows a team so much depth if this happens. With the amount of injuries to our CBs last year, I'm surprised they played as well as they did, seriously!
Andrew, both Randall and Rollins were thrust into roles they weren't ready for last year. Plus they were both injured! The Packers have addressed the boundary this off season. Both Randall and Rollins will be able to better utilize their ball skills in the slot. I'm not sure why you hate these two so much. Also, expect backlash and rebuttal when you continually post and repost negativity towards Packers players on a Packers fan site. I don't think DPF was out of line at all in his response towards you. I am not trying to start a fight and this will be the last time I address this issue. I'm just trying to show some perspective, that's all.

Somedumbname's picture

It is too early to call Randall or Rollins a wasted pick. Both looked good as rookies. Both had a bad year last year ( injuries did play a Factor to some degree). Let's see what happens this year before we jump to conclusions.

Bedrock's picture

Secondary had success with CBs using trail technique and safety over the top a few years ago. I'm not sure why that strategy was not employed against the top-flight receivers lately.
On another note...
Randall took snaps and worked in the slot. I know what coaches have said, but it's early. Barclay took snaps at center, Jones at linebacker, etc. It's too early to say Randall is the slot guy.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I hope you're right, but they're sure talking like he's a slot guy.

Make no mistake, the slot is important--but Randall is our 2nd best athlete at CB (after King, of course), and outside CB almost always requires top athletes.

Man, I just wish he could play outside. Rollins can thrive in the slot, and castoff House with rookie King is much too thin on the edge.

JDK52's picture

From CoachUp Nation: "Good trail technique requires many hours of practice at full game speed and is designed for those who show exceptional recovery speed and awareness."

The reason the coaches have employed trail in years past is they had Sam Shields and Tramon Williams running the boundary. Since those two guys are gone, we don't have a CB with excellent recovery speed. Randall has good overall speed, but he's never been a trail guy with that type of recovery. That's not how he's built.

Maybe King can be the guy who brings that aspect back. House sure won't be, though. He's another tall, strong CB who does much better running bump-and-run Man coverage.

PatrickGB's picture

Bedrock, I agree that the Packers had success with that scheme. Perhaps health was part of the reason we went away from it. I have not yet given up on R&R. But early season matchup are going to be brutal. We need to get up to speed quickly or lose the #1 seed for the playoffs and chance at the Super Bowl.

BPEARSON21's picture

While I've been very critical of our secondary, and I certainly have extreme doubts once again this year about our defensive backs, I don't think it would be fair to judge them off of their early season performances against teams like the Cowboys and Falcons. Those are both high octane offenses that are play off contending teams. While it's very easy (especially for someone like me who already has his doubts) to over-react early on, I don't think that would be fair. Especially if we're starting rookies right away like Josh Jones and Kevin King.

Instead of getting too high or too low at points during the season in regards to our defense, we won't know how they perform until the season is over and we have a full body of work to analyze.

LayingTheLawe's picture

The Packers will face the French nobility of receivers? I think the word you are looking for is marquee.

The packers problem last season was covering ANYONE. Such luminary receivers as Marvin Jones, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Delanie Walker (ok hes a tight end), Pierre Garcon, and Cameron Meredith had good if not career days against the Packers secondary as it was composed last season. Jones, Diggs and Thielen in particular had days they will most likely never duplicate in their careers against the 2016 Packer terrible secondary. So the challenge for the Packers in 2017 will be to cover anyone, much less top receivers.

BPEARSON21's picture

I agree with you. But it's easiest for fans to recall the most recent games which were against the Cowboys and Falcons when we faced up against Dez and Julio. And it's understandable we got torched, those guys are difficult for any corner to cover. But people forget it wasn't just those 2 games. We have a full seasons worth of stats to analyze.

I was checking out some stats on Football Outsiders website this morning and found some interesting stats about what our secondary did against teams #1, #2 and "other"receivers. We ranked 28th against #1 WR's, 29th against #2 receivers and 26th against "other receivers".

So while it's easy to say "yeah no one can guard top receivers" we struggled against the 2nd and 3rd string WR tremendously as well.

Interestingly enough however, we ranked very well guarding TE for what it's worth.

LayingTheLawe's picture

Interesting stats. My feeling was that the Packers specially had trouble guarding teams number 2 receivers giving up those200 plus yard days to Marvin Jones and Adam Thielen. But it seems it didn't matter what receiver it was the Packers just struggled.

BPEARSON21's picture

Couldn't agree more. How do you feel going into this year? I know most seem to think our secondary will take a large leap from last year, I'm not one of those people.

LayingTheLawe's picture

When you're the worst out there a large leap means you're in the middle of the pack. I don't see the personnel changes that will suddenly make them a great unit but better health alone should at least give a jump of some amount.

Jason Perone's picture

a rooflike projection over the entrance to a theater, hotel, or other building.
a large tent used for social or commercial functions.

I think I'll stick with mine, for better or worse :)

LayingTheLawe's picture

Oh you just didn't go to the adjective definition.

a tall rooflike projection above a theater entrance, usually containing the name of a currently featured play or film and its stars.
a rooflike shelter, as of glass, projecting above an outer door and over a sidewalk or a terrace.
Also, marquess, marquise. British. a large tent or tentlike shelter with open sides, especially one for temporary use in outdoor entertainments, receptions, etc.
superlative; headlining:
a marquee basketball player.

But that has nothing to do with the article. Julio Jones, AJ Green, and Dez Bryant are indeed a challenge for any team to cover, specially a Packer team that could not cover Adam Thielen last season.

dobber's picture


Leader of the funky bunch. Could not make it as a "musician".

Converted actor. Made a couple pretty good films. Now stuck pitching "Transformers" schlock.

RCPackerFan's picture

I like a lot of Wahlberg's movies.
The new Daddy's Home 2 or whatever its called looks pretty good.

LayingTheLawe's picture

Last season the Packers secondary would have struggled to cover Marky Mark.

RCPackerFan's picture

Exactly right.

For a quite a bit of the season we had to rely on Gunter, Goodson as primary CB's. Thats not a good sign that your 5th and 6th CB's are playing significant minutes.

Since '61's picture

An improved pass rush would help our CBs in the early part of the season but I'm not sure where it will come from yet. We play Atlanta on the road in week 2 in the Falcons opening of their new stadium. A tough assignment regardless of the opponent. It's not only J.Jones it's also Matt Ryan, 2016's MVP QB. If we can get pressure on him, especially up the middle, our CBs might have a chance. We get AJ Green with Andy Dalton at home. Dalton is a solid QB but not at the same level as Matt Ryan and not even in the same universe with Aaron Rodgers. He will be playing in GB for the 1st time. Again a consistent pass rush plus home field should help our CBs. We play Dallas on the road with Dak Prescott at QB. Prescott had one of the lowest, if not the lowest QB rating, in the league on 3rd and long. If we can force him into that situation consistently our defense may be able to keep him and Dez in check. It's way too soon to evaluate how our secondary will perform but I will manage my expectations and hope for the Packers' pass rush to improve and help out our developing CBs. Thanks, Since '61

LayingTheLawe's picture

How do we measure pressure? Because I agree with you that my feeling is that the Packers did not have consistent pressure on the QB last season and left the other team chances to pick on the suspect secondary. But statistics told me the Packers were 6th in sacks and 13th in hurries. This would say they were in the upper half.

The TKstinator's picture

GB lost Peppers, there goes SOME pass rush. Datone Jones? One sack? Negligible. Can Fackrell and Biegel contribute? Time will tell.
Scary thing is, the overall pass d last season was horrible, even with the 6th most sacks and the 13th most pressures. So if GB looked to improve pass d from the coverage side rather than the rush side, it makes sense. Or maybe it was that King and Jones were better values than the rushers available at those spots.

LayingTheLawe's picture

Peppers could still make the big play in his old age and get the flashy strip sack play here and there but he was not one for consistent pressure. The biggest help to the pass defense is if Daniels, Francois, Clark and maybe Lowry can get pressure up the middle. Lowry is the only player listed as a DE on the roster right now - is that typical or just how the Packers D likes to keep mostly linebackers and not true Defensive Ends?

GBPDAN1's picture

6 of the first 7 games are tough. I see a 4-3 record at the bye then a strong finish as the D rounds out. If our pass rush stays somewhat healthy, the Pack finishes 12-4.

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