Green Bay Packers want heated competition at Defensive Back
By Dan Dahlke
Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward (29). Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
We are now a few weeks removed from the 2015 NFL Draft and it’s time to take a close look at how the Green Bay Packers roster is shaping up for the upcoming season.
Earlier today, I discussed how a team’s draft can provide some insight on how they feel about their roster, and a I made the point that the Packers don’t seem all that concerned with the inside linebacker position based on how they drafted.
The draft forces teams to show their hand and reveal how they would like their roster to take shape, even if as fans we see it in a different light.
To continue this series, I would like to look at another insight we gained about the Packers roster from their 2015 NFL Draft class.
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After draft weekend, it was clear Green Bay saw the biggest need on their roster going into this spring was cornerback, and by taking two defensive backs early in the draft, they weren’t taking any chances the position would be left unaddressed going into camp.
The Packers lost two key veterans in the secondary this offseason in Tramon Williams and Davon House, and now remain very young and unproven at cornerback outside of Sam Shields.
Williams was a reliable starter for the Packers for several seasons and logged 28 interceptions in his nine-year career in Green Bay. House played a significant number of snaps this past season, and the Packers will miss his size (6-1, 200) and physical playing style on the boundary.
North squad defensive corner Quinten Rollins of Miami (Ohio) (22). Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
These are big shoes to fill.
Green Bay is hoping their first two picks in the draft–Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins–will help replenish some of the playmaking ability they lost with Williams’ departure.
Randall recorded six interceptions in his two seasons at Arizona State, and Rollins notched seven picks in his only year of football at Miami of Ohio.
Both players have excellent ball skills and instincts in coverage and should compete with Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde for playing time at cornerback. It should be one of the best position battles to watch in training camp this summer.
However, I could also see the Packers using Randall in a unique role in their defense, and maybe this is what they had envisioned for the former safety all along.
Randall seems like a natural fit as a playmaking nickel corner, who can either play up near the line in run support or roam the middle of the field and make plays on the ball. He has both the tackling ability and natural feel in coverage to be a playmaking presence between the hashes.
The Packers have been missing this type of player since they released Charles Woodson in 2013. A defensive back that can cover, make plays against the run, or blitz out of the slot.
Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Damarious Randall (3). Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Hyde has shown he can fulfill this role in some capacity, but he hasn’t shown the ball skills or ability in coverage to be a truly impact player like a Woodson or like what Randall has shown at Arizona State. In the very least, however, Randall and Hyde could compete for playing time at nickel corner.
For this to work, however, it would mean either Hayward or Rollins man the other outside corner position opposite Sam Shields. The competition between Hayward and Rollins could be another good one to watch in camp.
By doubling up at the position early in the draft, the Packers also made it clear they don’t want to take any chances of being caught thin in the secondary this season. They like to run a lot of nickel or dime looks with three or four corners on the field at any given time, so they’ll need plenty of capable defensive backs on their roster.
Green Bay will enter the 2015 season with at least five very talented and physical cornerbacks on their roster, six if second-year man Demetri Goodson or undrafted rookie Ladarius Gunter put together impressive camps.
Despite suffering some losses, it seems the Packers are very deep in the secondary, and this is only exacerbated when you consider they still have Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson, and Chris Banjo at safety as well.