Just how bad were the Green Bay Packers’ cornerbacks in 2016-17?
We know the Green Bay Packers‘ pass defense struggled to stop anyone all of last year.
That was evident way before and certainly during the NFC Championship game, when the Green Bay corners single-handedly cost the Packers a shot at the Super Bowl (It’s painful, but just remember Julio Jones’ touchdown catch in the third quarter where he beat coverage and then physically beat two more defenders on the way to the endzone. That about sums it all up).
But exactly just how bad were the Packers’ cornerbacks in 2016-17?
Using Pro Football Focus’ player grades tool, we can get a real answer, and it’s bad. Like, really, really bad.
First, for those who don’t know, a brief overview of how PFF grades players. The staff uses three separate analysts to grade every player on every play.
Then, their scores are verified by another panel of judges. The grades are then normalized, meaning the staff better accounts for any given situation the player may be in. Players are then finally graded on a 0-100 scale and given ratings from poor to elite.
The highest graded Packers’ “corner” by PFF last year was Micah Hyde. He received a grade of 74.7, which falls in the average category. But for this exercise, he won’t be included because he wasn’t a true corner. Hyde has bounced back and forth between the nickel corner spot and safety his entire career with the Packers.
So limiting ourselves to “true corners” we end up with Ladarius Gunter, Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall.
Right off the bat that should tell us how much trouble the Packers were in – they only went three deep on their cornerback depth chart for most of the season. (Sam Shields, Mackinton Dorleant, Josh Hawkins, Demetri Goodson and Herb Waters all played less than 200 snaps all season, Goodson being the only one who even ended up near 200. Bene Benwikere played 201, but for another team.)
The highest-rated player of the trio of Gunter, Rollins and Randall was Rollins.
Rollins graded out as above average during his rookie season, but took a noticeable step back in his sophomore campaign, finishing with a grade of 58.1, which rates him as poor, the lowest rung on the PFF totem pole.
Rollins missed five games but played 722 defensive snaps for the Packers, more than anyone except Gunter. That obviously didn’t bode well for the Green Bay secondary.
Next highest on the list we have Gunter, who essentially acted as the Packers’ No. 1 corner for most of the season after Shields went down.
He certainly defended the opposing teams’ No. 1 receiver the most, anyway. And that didn’t go well. Gunter received an even lower grade than Rollins at 47.6.
In his defense, however, for a second-year, undrafted free agent who was forced to cover the Julio Joneses and Odell Beckhams of the world, he performed better than anyone thought he could.
His lack of speed and experience simply limited what he could do, and likely will moving forward.
And then, finally, we have Randall. Early caveat – he played through injuries most of the season, according to the Packers.
That certainly has to be taken into account. But after earning a below average grade as a rookie last season (69.4), Randall tanked to the tune of a 39.6.
The only Packer corners graded worse than Randall were the likes of Dorleant, Hawkins, Waters and Goodson, and that’s not good company to be in for anyone, let alone a former first-round pick. Randall simply played soft all season – in coverage and in the run game.
Maybe injuries were the cause, or maybe not. Either way, Randall was terrible last season.
It’s no secret the Packers need to find a way to fix their secondary, but that’s a broad term. The secondary includes safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett, who were the only glue that kept the defense together last season. It’s the corners Green Bay needs to address.
The typical Thompson-McCarthy plan would be to stick with your guys and hope they improve; that may not be the best plan of attack heading into next season after watching Randall, Rollins and Gunter get torched week after week.
Next: What about the Packers running game?
Whether its a rare foray into free agency or addressing the position through the draft (again), corner should be priority No. 1 for the Packers this offseason.