Packers cornerbacks: Deep was probably the best word to describe the Packers secondary last season, in particular the cornerbacks. While the Packers don’t have a Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis on the team, the Packers do have enough cornerbacks who can start a game and acquit themselves honorably and a couple of special teams players who can make an impact as well.
Where are we now:
Here are the current suspects:
Jarrett Bush (Undrafted free agent, 2006): While Bush is probably best left on the sideline when the regular defense is on, lets not kid ourselves at his impact on special teams. Bush is one of the better special teams players in the league and has been incredibly consistent in that regard over the past couple of years. While head coach Mike McCarthy has pointed the finger at veterans on special teams for many of this years gaffes, Bush is likely not one of them. Bush is a free agent and should be resigned based on his special teams production as well as the modest contract he will likely command based on his age.
Demetri Goodson (6th round, 2014): The wildcard of the bunch, Goodson fits right in with the Packers cornerback standard in terms of physicality but was a regular game day inactive for most of the year, only playing a handful of snaps. In the preseason Goodson showed great recovery and speed but often times showcased that recovery speed by letting receivers slip by him and didn’t appear 100% confident on the field. Nevertheless, the Packers redshirted him on the active roster, likely meaning they have high hopes for year 2. One concerning factor is that Goodson is already 25 and won’t have many years in the league even if he is successful.
Casey Hayward (2nd round, 2012): While not even a regular starter, Hayward has been the best cornerback on the Packers when healthy, which is the big caveat since he hasn’t been all that healthy so far in his career. Hayward is truly dominant in the slot but does have trouble with bigger and taller receivers and tight ends. While Hayward saw most of his action in the nickel and dime roles, the Packers are hoping he can make a transition to being a perimeter defender, where he saw a lot of time in the preseason. If healthy, Hayward can be a cornerstone to build on in the defensive backfield.
Micah Hyde (5th round, 2013): A cornerback/safety hybrid player, the Packers started Hyde at safety until Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was experienced enough to start alongside Morgan Burnett. From then Hyde switched to nickel cornerback and the results were mixed. While Hyde is usually in the right place at the right time, he’s often a step or two behind and often leads to more chasing than tackling (which he does well when he finally gets there). Hyde also saw the biggest drop in production of any Packer between his rookie and sophomore seasons, perhaps due to having too much on his plate. However, the talent is there so if the Packers can figure out exactly how to get the most out of Hyde’s skill, they will have another young and talented cornerback on their hands.
Sam Shields (Undrafted free agent, 2010): A converted wide receiver with the fastest wheels on the team, Shields remarkably held his own as a rookie all the way to a Super Bowl but since then has had a mostly up and down career. While Shields was resigned last offseason for top 10 type money, 2014 saw him as anywhere but that type of player, however it should be said that Shields didn’t look the same after suffering a pretty vicious concussion. Nevertheless, Shields will be counted on to man one of the outside cornerback positions.
Tramon Williams (Undrafted free agent, 2006): The veteran presence of the group, Williams has been with the Packers for 9 years and has played both in the slot and outside after a brilliant 2010 season. While Williams probably never lived up to the contract he signed after the 2010 season either, he hasn’t been a complete disappointment either. Williams is also a free agent and likely the Packers most significant free agent now that Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga have resigned and Davon House has moved on to the Jaguars. There are some reports that Williams is visiting with the Saints, but Williams is likely considered a 2nd tier free agent and the Packers will have some time to resign him if they choose.
So that’s where we are. Next let’s look at…
Where we want to be: Cornerback is not a position of strength but its also not a position of weakness (that would go to inside linebackers). The Packers are a good coverage team but their success in defending the pass is often correlated with their ability to rush the passer; in other words they are good at jumping routes and keeping a solid coverage for a short period of time but lack the ability to hang tight when the play continues on or the pass rush fails to get home. The biggest question coming in for the cornerbacks is who exactly will play where and who will be left; Williams may or may not be on the team next year so having a viable 3rd option on the perimeter should be a priority; that player may be Casey Hayward but more needs to be seen before that assessment can be made. In the slot, Micah Hyde will likely see more time this year at cornerback with Clinton-Dix and Burnett established and Demetri Goodson could also make an impact in the slot.
How do we get there?
While it probably doesn’t make much sense to draft a cornerback with their first or second round pick, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Packers draft a cornerback in the third to fifth rounds; outside of Casey Hayward, no cornerback on the roster has been drafted higher than the 4th round and a fair bit of them (including both starters) were undrafted rookie free agents. While Thompson has been historically shy about signing free agents, his biggest free agent success has to be Charles Woodson but I don’t think Thompson will catch lightning in a bottle a second time and will likely rely on the later rounds of the draft and the undrafted free agent pool to bolster the cornerback position.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.