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Randall's Slide Inside Not a Demotion, But a Better Fit

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Randall's Slide Inside Not a Demotion, But a Better Fit

Damarious Randall received glowing reviews this week from head coach Mike McCarthy, a positive sign that coincides with the cornerback’s self-expressed confidence entering his third NFL season. 
“If there’s one thing that really jumps out to me, it’s Damarious Randall,” McCarthy said in media interviews Wednesday. “He’s had an outstanding offseason. You can see his play at the nickel, the star position, as we call it.” 
Indeed, Randall appears to be settling into an important role as the starting nickel corner. It’s no wonder since the former college free safety played the majority of his coverage manned up on slot receivers and tight ends. Randall’s instincts, ball skills and athleticism are important because opposing receivers have the entire route tree at their disposal and can go inside or out. The modern slot corner has become a premium position since pass-happy offenses and spread attacks have forced defenses to play sub packages at an ever-increasing rate. 
One prominent Packers blogger suggested that Randall’s potential move inside is pejorative, a telling sign of what the Packers think of their former first-round pick. But how does it reflect negatively on Randall that the team sees him as the leading man for what’s essentially a starting position (and one that requires a unique skill set)? To insinuate it’s a demotion belies McCarthy’s unsolicited praise of Randall, as well as everything we’ve come to know about the importance of nickel corner in today’s game. 
Do the Broncos think less of perennial Pro Bowler Chris Harris Jr., who also spends most of his time in the slot? Surely not. And it’s a position someone like Harris is uniquely suited to. 
Could Randall become a slot specialist like Harris? At surface level, there are some bold similarities between the two players, starting with their athletic profiles:

Chris Harris 

H/W: 5-10, 194

40 time: 4.48

3-cone: 7.01

Bench: 14 reps

Vert: 34”

Broad: 121 inches

20 shuttle: 4.2


Damarious Randall

H/W: 5-11, 196

40 time: 4.46 

3-cone: 6.83

Bench: 14 reps

Vert: 38”

broad: 120 inches

20 shuttle: 4.07

Athletically they are very similar, and Randall even measures better in terms of straight line speed, change of direction and vertical jump. This tough, quick guy mold of slot corner is a bit of an archetype. Others over the years who come to mind Antoine Winfield and Ladarius Webb. But their successes, and include Harris as well, were predicated on more than their athletic profiles. All are/were good blitzers and tenacious against the run. 
If the sense is that Randall is not one of those types, it may be helpful to return to his college tape. In his last two seasons at Arizona State, Randall showed a willingness to mix it up and turned in an impressive 177 tackles over that span. Randall was injured last season and admitted to being tentative initiating contact. When healthy, he’s never had an issue with willingness to hit, though his fundamentals have been questioned. Coming out, Randall was known for throwing his body at the ball carrier. With two years being coached up by Joe Whitt Jr., those technique lapses should hopefully dissipate. 
Whoever earns the lead role as the Packers’ “star” position will be asked to cover, run support and blitz. Whether Randall is up to the challenge remains to be seen, but at least his coaches think he’s on the right track. With bigger corners like Davon House and rookie Kevin King better suited to the boundary, Randall’s potential ascension inside could make the team’s biggest weakness a year ago a sudden strength.
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (20) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

dnicholson's picture

Going to ask for your trust here: I did not see/read/was not aware of the link you posted. My inspiration for the story came from McCarthy's comments earlier in the week. I'll admit that I read Zach Kruse's PackersWire story, but the content and focus of it is different than my above take.

I *did* use Mockdraftable because they're a great resource for those athletic profiles.

And the comparison to Chris Harris came from the unnamed blogger who I reference in the post, who said that it's telling that a former first rounder is being relegated to the slot. I responded on Twitter to that blogger that Chris Harris Jr. plays a ton of slot corner, and he's a Pro Bowler.

From there I looked into Harris' background -- his athletic profile and the fact that he played safety his senior year at Kansas. That was the genesis of my post. I promise.

It's a coincidence, and in a week where there are basically a handful of timely topics, I'm honestly not that surprised to see the content in the link you posted. And the author did an excellent job!

As for the future, if another post explicitly inspires what I post, I'll be sure to give credence and supply a link.

Thanks for the kind words!

porupack's picture

great article on Randall, and timely after many of us fans have been down on him after last season. Good to see coaches improvising with what are his strengths to get him in position to succeed. Coincidences regarding another article was explained well enough, and I guess your article is all the more timely if the other article similarly noted the switch. Thanks dN

Since '61's picture

As I've mentioned several times since the Packers drafted King and signed House, I expect that House and King will start as our boundary CBs and that Randall would become our slot CB. That leaves Rollins as our dime or #4 CB. I'm expecting Hawkins to be our #5 with Gunther and Goodson chucked and one or two UDFAs to be on the PS. If we get to the regular season with our top 5 CBs intact I think we'll see an improved CB position group vs last season's. Of course it would be almost impossible to be worse than 2016. I hope that Randall continues to shine as our slot CB. Thanks, Since '61

marpag1's picture

I will certainly stop short of calling Gunter "good," but I think he's being massively underrated by a lot of Packer fans who were ticked off by last year's pass defense. Gunter was hardly the sole reason. Last year he pretty clearly outperformed both Randall and Rollins. Hawkins could barely get on the field even for special teams. He played 20% of the ST snaps, and only EIGHT snaps all year on defense.

Gunter is plenty good to be a 4 or 5 corner. I'd say his chances of making the team are pretty good.

dnicholson's picture

Gunter provides important depth as a boundary corner, too.

Since '61's picture

DPF - I agree. I think Waters earns the last CB spot ahead of Gunther. Gunther played hard last season but he's a bit slow to be an NFL corner and he was often out of position as well. Thanks, Since '61

Spock's picture

Since '61, I mostly agree with your posts, but don't get the "dump Gunther" stuff. The position coach, Joe Whitt, made it a point last season to point out the reason Gunther was forced to be our #1 was because his TECHNIQUE was the BEST of all the CB's. He may be "slow" but he's been technique sound. That's why he was the #1 corner last year. Joe Whitt admitted to putting Gunther in a bad situation because of all the injuries to the secondary. I think Gunther sticks because he knows how to position himself. Just my opinion, but the man is the MOST sound of every CB on his footwork, hands, etc.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I'm actually depressed by Randall's move inside--not because I disagree with his fit (this article is spot on), but rather what it means for the rest of the corners.

Point is, we only have one quality starter outside, and he's a rookie (King). House is decent, hopefully, but he was waived by Jax for more reason than being beat out by a great rookie.

And then there's Rollins, the ideal slot guy on whom we spent a precious 2nd round pick. Not only does Randall's move inside leave us thin and unimpressive outside, but it renders our 2015 2nd rounder a near-bust.

Hopefully, some young guys like Hawkins or Waters step up, or Randall's move could signal big problems for the CB position.

Nick Perry's picture

Moving Randall to the slot just makes sense. He played there a lot in college and at least athletically is better suited to play inside in the slot. Adding House and drafting a player like King makes just as much sense as moving Randall. Both are bigger, more physical, and are already the best options the Packers have outside. not to mention they excel in playing press man coverage. The Packers might not have "Depth" outside, but they're already better than they were last season.

I wouldn't dismiss Rollins so quickly either. He had a pretty good rookie season finishing 3rd in the NFL allowing a 58.1 passer rating for the 2015 season. Everybody so quick to give Randall a pass for last season should be giving Rollins the same pass.

I know you didn't mention Gunter but he's another many fans are ready to cut loose. He may not have been the greatest option, but last season he was the Packers BEST option. He also drew the opposing team's #1 WR each week. Line him up on the #2 or #3 WR and he'll do just fine in most cases. Until another CB steps up I don't think Gunter should go anywhere.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I agree Randall makes sense in the slot, but I think you're a bit too high on House. At best, he's average, even playing his preferred bump-and-run style. Behind him and King, we have nothing established.

Gunter makes the most of his abilities, but his atrocious speed would have him cut outright by most teams. The mere fact he has a chance at this roster speaks volumes

I'm not so much down on Rollins as depressed at what Randall's move means to his prospects.

Nick Perry's picture

Might be a little high, hoping he plays like he did in 2015 before the Jags switched to mostly zone. I guess I'm also looking at who's on the roster at this time and how could they possibly be worse than last year. Randall doesn't play well on the outside, even before the injury last season.

Don't get depressed about Rollins friend. He's entering just his 4th season playing football since HS. He was better than Randall last season and in 2015 too.

Remember that guy with atrocious speed was about the Packers best option last season after week one. He might be slow compared to others but the Packers were ill-equipped to handle a injury to Sam Shields. That's not on Gunter, that's on TT. In 2015 just look at the last few games of the season when Shields was out, and the Cardinals game in the playoffs when he was back. It was obvious then what Shields meant to the Packers secondary yet they didn't try to add anyone during the offseason in case of another concussion, and they made no attempt after week one either.

The Patriots added Eric Rowe by trade for a 4th round pick in 2018. It could turn into a 3rd which would mean Rowe was balling out. I'm not busting Thompson's balls, but merely pointing out another instance Ted did nothing but plug in another UDFA .

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I think my biggest point is how this move is such an indictment of Ted's mishandling the CB position over the past few years.

I mean, I generally support Ted, but when your only quality outside corner is a concussion-prone Sam Shields, why are you investing high picks in nothing but slot guys like Randall and Rollins? Without elite athletes outside, you can't compete in a league filled with big, fast, talented, outside receivers. You just can't. So top picks must address this need.

Last season it all came crashing down, leaving Ted scrambling for outside talent in raw-but-spectacular Kevin King and castoff House. Now Randall and Rollins, who cost us our top 2 choices in 2015, are left fighting for snaps at one "starting" position that only plays about 80% of the downs.

That's mismanagement of resources, plain and simple. It's blatant, consequential, and it leaves us neglecting other needs while desperately trying to fix it.

That's my point.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Spriggs was a massive steal. I literally jumped for joy when we chose him. But with just Bakhtiari and an injury-prone Bulaga, he was potentially much more than depth.

You can't just stockpile slot guys. You need boundary CB's, and we don't have enough because Ted misallocated resources.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I still like Rollins as much as, probably more than, Randall.

egbertsouse's picture

I'm always glad to see a "round peg/round hole" approach rather than that "square peg/round hole" approach that TT s so fond of.

Jonathan Spader's picture

Gunter looked bad last year because of the matchups he was placed in. He should never have been expected to cover a guy like Julio Jones. I think he has the tools to cover big receivers who can't blow by yoy with speed. Look at who the Packers just drafted Yancey and Dupre who don't have blazing speed but are tall and can jump. If the CBs stay healthy we have a good range of athletes to match up against WR combinations.

BPEARSON21's picture

Do you really believe that...? You really don't view it as a demotion...? A first round player who was drafted to be a cornerback is forced to switch positions 2 years later... I don't care what his "measureables" are. I don't care what he did in college. He was a first round selection to play CB and 2 years later he's exclusively slot due to performance.

Call it what you want, put whatever twist on the story you'd like (like comparing Randall to a Pro-Bowler) but it's the Packers essentially saying "he's simply not good enough to play the CB position like he was drafted to do, so we're going to try to place him at a different position in an attempt to avoid a complete bust." Read between the lines.

Also, of course McCarthy is raving about him that's all any coach does in the off-season. What's he supposed to say? The statement that off-season coaching approval means he can be compared to a pro-bowler holds no value and serves no legit argument.

dobber's picture

"Do you really believe that...? You really don't view it as a demotion...?"

I really don't care if it's a demotion. Just get the best players on the field in roles that best utilize their talents. Besides, the Packers play so much nickel and sub-package football that he's still essentially a starter.

Pikeman's picture

Quite frankly it doesn't really matter where you put them if you don't have a pass rush. I didn't see any progress in this area by draft or free agency. What we have is not fast enough. The QBs have all day to pass. Hopefully we now have some size in our DBs which is sorely needed. Go Pack

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

It is rather like being a player who was tried at LT and moved to RT, where he thrived. When contract time rolls around, the demotion is evident.

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