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Shields Prepares For Nickel Cornerback Role

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Shields Prepares For Nickel Cornerback Role

Head coach Mike McCarthy might have been unwilling to publicly anoint undrafted rookie Sam Shields as the Packers nickel cornerback on Monday for the season opening game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but team leader Charles Woodson pretty much did it for him.

"He's going to be playing," said Woodson. "He's going to coming in as our third corner. Things are going to be moving fast out there, and he's going to have to be able to comprehend what's going on out there and know what he's doing. The important thing is really, go out there and be an athlete. That's what he is."

McCarthy was asked who the nickel cornerback would be, but his response–or lack thereof–wasn't surprising.

For one, he doesn't want to tip his hat to the Eagles. For another, he wants to be fair to all players. After all, Monday was only the first day of practice in preparation for a game that was still six days away.

"We’ll work through that this week," said McCarthy. "I would like to take that as far as I need to as far as who is lining up where. I know you guys respect that."

But with reports out of Green Bay indicating Brandon Underwood being the only player held out of practice yesterday, odds are Shields will be the nickel cornerback on Sunday at 3:15 Central time when the Packers travel to Philadelphia.

The rookie out of Miami has shown obvious speed having run a 40-yard dash in 4.2 seconds, according to Shields himself. He's also shown the raw yet promising talent that has got helped him beat the odds to go from being undrafted to making the 53-man roster.

"It's a blessing to me," said Shields. "That's something I've always dreamed of, getting to the NFL. Now making the roster just made it more exciting. I'm ready to play now, knowing that I'm on the team."

A former wide receiver in college prior to his senior year, Shields also has shown more ball skills than the other young cornerbacks on the roster during both training camp and the preseason. Shields had two interceptions during exhibition play to help show for it.

Making the transition from receiver to cornerback during his senior year at the University of Miami, Shields is used to having a target on his back and having opposing teams pick on him.

"I'm prepared. There's been a lot of things on my back from college on up," said Shields. "There's nothing new. I just got to keep working hard and moving forward."

That could be exactly the case during the Eagles game when quarterback Kevin Kolb has to decide between throwing to receivers covered by veterans like Woodson or Tramon Williams and an untested rookie like Shields.

In a system where the nickel defense typically spends more than 50% of the time on the field during any given game, Shields is going to play a lot. And he's probably going to see the kitchen sink thrown at him as well.

Woodson, the defending NFL Defensive Player of the Year, isn't going to have a lot of advice for Shields.

"There ain't a lot you can tell him," said Woodson. "Just go out there and play ball. An important thing is going to be for him to not go out there and just get a mental block."

Shields said he has been hitting the playbook as much as possible to get prepared for any eventuality. Seeing as he hasn't officially been told he's nailed down the nickel cornerback job, he's not taking anything for granted.

"It's going to be just like the first time in the preseason," said Shields of Sunday's game. "Strap it up and you just gotta play. In the regular season, there's going to be a lot coming at you like more double moves, things like that. I just got to keep working."

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (23) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Tony Wilson's picture

There's a lot of weight riding his shoulders come Sunday. Best of luck to him.

RockinRodgers's picture

Good luck and may the force be with you.

The force being Charles Woodson.

PackersRS's picture

Huh. And here I thought Woodson was Superman... Guess he's good enough to be multiple characters. Counting that the Force is a character, that is.

Cole's picture

Let's face it, he's going to get beat a few times this Sunday. The question is can he minimize the big plays he gives up, and can he make one or two great plays to offset the bad ones. I believe he can.

PackersRS's picture

The MINUTE the Packers' D struggles, Woodson will be so pissed with the lack of veterans. I can sense it already.

packeraaron's picture

I don't think this is too far fetched, actually.

lebowski's picture

And I wouldn't blame him one bit.

Tarynfor12's picture

But we can score 50 points a game and we're good against the run,RIGHT!LOL

jay's picture

How should the protection scheme break down? I've got the best Eagle receivers in order as Desean Jackson, Maclin, and TE Celek. Should Woodson focus on Jackson, Tramon on Maclin, Nickel on Celek? I know Woodson focused on Davis against the 49ers, but Celek doesn't seem to be Vernon Davis either. Thoughts?

PackersRS's picture

I think, right or wrong, Capers returns to what he did early the season: focus the #2 CB (Harris, or in this case, Tramon) on the opposing best receiver, and lets Woodson roam free.

jeremy's picture

I have to tip my hat to Woodson for taking the young guy under his wing. What a lucky guy Shields is to have such a class act as his mentor. It stands in stark contrast to the reportedly classless and selfish actions of Favre who shunned Aaron Rodgers the whole time they were in Green Bay together.

PackersRS's picture

“There ain’t a lot you can tell him,” said Woodson. “Just go out there and play ball. An important thing is going to be for him to not go out there and just get a mental block.”

That doesn't sound like a mentor to me. That sounds like a reporter asked him what he told him, and he said he told him nothing... Maybe I'm being too critical on Woodson, but I remember vividly him complaining about lack of veterans, about the mentality not being winning the SB, etc...

No, it's not a Favre situation. It's in Woodson's best interest in teaching those guys, because they'll be playing ALONGSIDE him. I think he'll give them pointers. But he's not a mentor.

MLecl0001's picture

There is also another story where Shields says he asks Woodson to go into the film room and break down film together and Woodson does. That sounds like help, Woodsons comments dont sound like a vet thats not willing to mentor a younger player. It sounds like a vet stating the truth about the position.

I think the CB position more than any other is one where you learn by being thrown into the fire. There is only so much solid fundamental techniques will get you as a CB.

PackersRS's picture

Now THAT's a mentoring story.

I didn't say Woodson wasn't willing to mentor him. I said that, from what it's written in this article, you can't jump to the conclusion that he is...

jeremy's picture

I'm not jumping to any conclusions, Woodson is willing to spend time helping Shields.

lebowski's picture

I remember Woodson complaining about that as well, I think after the Anthony Smith release or something. I mean, this team was so close to making noise in the playoffs last year, and now we've got 11 guys on the team who have never played in an NFL game before? 6 of whom will probably be on the field a ton. This never-ending youngest team thing has to end sometime.

fhornplayer83's picture

I know it's none of my business... but I am excited about the potential in Shields. He really seems like he has his head in the game, and he has the physical abilities to make the plays.

This diamond in the rough will be a thing of beauty by next year, and hopefully by the end of the season.

dgtalmn's picture

He's got a cool name for a defensive back "Shields". Now let's hope it follows form.

Oppy's picture

As intrigued as I was with Shields when he started to show he may actually be viable as a defensive player, I never thought he'd be able to really play this year.

The last few days, however, I'm starting to get this weird feeling that he might end up being one of the stories that is all over the league down the stretch- the unheralded, undrafted FA whose just started to play D his last year of college and has somehow turned into a vital part of the Packer's defense.

No logic behind this feeling whatsoever, just a weird feeling. Once they started projecting he'd be playing nickle for the opener, I just kept on thinking about Joe Whitt Jr. gushing about how shields would end up being a great DB with time and coaching... Looks like they are trying to jump start his development curve.

Hope he plays well and achieves his potential.

PackersRS's picture

Sam Shields = Jacob Lacey

Ryan's picture

Maybe you just need a cool name to make the team as an undrafted free agent... Zombo, Crabtree sounds tough, now Sheilds... I doubt that could be a coincidence.

gratif's picture

You should have more doubt.

NickGBP's picture

You should have more humor.

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