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Packers Working on Mixing and Matching Cornerback Combos

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Packers Working on Mixing and Matching Cornerback Combos

The consensus a year ago was that the Packers had one of the deepest cornerback groups in the league.

As it would turn out from week one to season's end, that would not be the case.

While Sam Shields went down in week one what was reported to be his fifth concussion, it caused defensive coordinator Dom Capers to rally the troops in his secondary and create as many different functioning packages on the fly. The result was the 31st-ranked pass defense in football.

It wasn't easy for Capers or cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr., who has established himself as one of the more underrated coaches at his craft. Since coming to Green Bay and assuming his position amongst the coaching staff in 2009, the Packers have accounted for an NFL-high 165 interceptions and are ranked fifth in opponent passer rating.

Whitt's accolades and evident success with his unit make it hard to hold a season like 2016 over his head. Both Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins dealt with injuries, Demetri Goodson's season ended on injured reserve, LaDarius Gunter battled through some of his own pains. All of these unfortunate incidents consequently come as a domino effect from losing Shields. Without Shields, many corners were forced to play out of position.

It would seem as if the Packers are taking a different approach defensively this season. Last season's struggles may have called for such a change.

Rather than sticking with the same group through the duration of training camp, the Packers have mixed and matched with a variety of different starting tandems, whether it be Davon House and Gunter on the perimeter or Kevin King—prior to his shoulder injury—earning starting reps.

"I think in this day and age in training camp, you have to prepare for a lot of different scenarios," Capers said during his Wednesday morning presser. "We've been through a number of injuries in the past. You think back, here we are playing for the division championship and we end up with five safeties on the field over in Detroit."

Of course, five safeties on the field may not be too detrimental of a measure to take. The Packers are entering the upcoming season with what head coach Mike McCarthy calls the deepest safety group he's seen in his 20-plus years of coaching. 

Efficient? Sure, but with such a young group of cornerbacks, the idea is to give them reps and watch them translate from camp onto the field with a full grasping of their assignments. The Packers lacked much preparation for the hardships they endured defensively in 2016.

"The more experience those guys can get in different spots this time of the year, I think it better prepares you for what you have to deal with later on," Capers said. "I do like the depth that we have in some situations, we've got a number of guys that will be multiple position players for us. You're always looking for different ways to get our best 11 people on the field."

Many would like to think one of those best 11 people is third-year cornerback Quinten Rollins, who is also in major need of a bounce-back season.

Rollins contests a pass to Geronimo Allison in training camp. (Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Rollins has been one of the culprits in the midst of Capers' mixing and matching cornerback combos, even seeing some work at the "star" position that Randall was expected to occupy. If the Packers can excel with multiple players in the slot, those learnings can help their abilities broaden. In Rollins' case, he could see more work on the perimeter, being the more physical of the two corners drafted consecutively in the 2015 NFL Draft.

"I really like the way he's played inside at the 'star' position," Capers said of Rollins. "He's a guy that went through the injury situation... He can play either inside or outside, but I really like the way he's played at the 'star.' He can give us a physical guy in there and I think he can make plays on the ball. I think he showed pretty good instincts up to this point in time in camp, so I think he's off to a good start."

The Packers aren't shrugging off the dismal defensive year that 2016 was, and that's showcased by their preparation through camp. While the newly re-acquired House remains as the stagnant, clear starter of the group, everyone else appears to be a rotating carousel of contributing pieces.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

ejr450's picture

I was one of the proponents of last year's group - I thought we had depth, skill, talent, etc. This year perhaps there is what I hoped for last year.

Tundraboy's picture

Season can not get here soon enough. Until the D shows something, it's all just endless speculation. I just hope they all are healthy.

Since '61's picture

Tundra - that pretty much sums up the next 5 weeks. Thanks, Since '61

Tundraboy's picture

Yes sir. Think it will be worth the wait this year.

al bundy's picture

I too have a lot more optimism this year in the run game and pass d. I too need to wait and see how it unfolds on the field. Sems ted alays has more holes to fill then dfaft picks thus their seems to be an achiles heel each year. Hoping not this year.

RCPackerFan's picture

Don't know where else to put this. I just saw on Twitter that Herb Waters is out for the season.

Zachary Jacobson's picture

He is. Shoulder injury. Missed the end of minicamp and the last few days of training camp. Tough break, I know a lot of people including myself were hopeful for him.

Lphill's picture

Yes RC I also saw it posted.

Handsback's picture

I think that the SS/FS crew that the Packers can field will put a little less pressure on the CBs. The pass rushers will help, but those CBs (at this time I don't care who starts) will have to cover those long passes.

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