2015 Packers Position Group Analysis: Cornerbacks

Packers Cornerbacks Sam Shields and Casey Hayward

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.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • Bobby D

    If we can get Tramon back for two years at a reasonable price, we’re in good shape. If not, what’s left and a drat pick or FA could get it done. Be a lot easier if we can get more pressure on the qb. Another note, AJ’s dream came true going home to Ohio? Wish TT could have made that fantasy come true sooner!

  • Thegreatreynoldo

    I agree with your prediction that TT will take a CB in the 3rd to 5th rounds and agree that CB is not a strength, and it might, but might not, be a weakness. Another way of putting it is that GB might be able to get by. I think your tone is remarkably sanguine about the CB situation. I don’t disagree with what you actually wrote about each player, but feel there were omissions. Bush shouldn’t even be mentioned: he can’t play CB and is not under contract. GB may have some idea what they have in Goodson, but unless you watched practices, the rest of us don’t. (Mind that I was impressed with his raw talent.) Shields is now the #1 CB. He was just okay, but has talent to be more than that. There is no #2 outside CB, only hopefuls. Agree that Hayward is the most likely prospect there, but be aware that his wonderful rating from PFF is due to GB using him only in situations that suit his skill set (which is good coaching), leading him to play only 39% of defensive snaps (426 snaps, or 39%, about the same as House played, and which pales next to Tramon’s 1016 snaps). If Hayward becomes the #2 CB (and we don’t know how he’ll do there but he probably won’t be terrible, but not nearly as good as Tramon), and Hyde plays the slot, we have no idea who will play dime, or nickel. Capers will find it difficult to play with a single high safety, and he’ll have trouble playing man or press coverage. TT drafted Lee in the 2nd (2008) & Hayward in the 2nd (2012). He found gold in Tramon (2008 – shined in 2009 or so) and Shields (2010). Continued improvement from Clinton-Dix would help the CBs. No idea what TT will do in the draft given other needs. Not many CBs are ready to play this year. Hayward becomes a FA after this season, so TT is likely to address this position, just not clear when he can afford to. If the secondary is the strength of the defense this season, it will be a pleasant surprise. If Shields, Hayward or Hyde miss time, things could get ugly.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      In the salary cap era, no team can be stocked at all positions all the time; the Packers were lucky at cornerback depth last year and this year I think they’ll be ok (I don’t know sanguine is the proper word since the secondary is by all accounts at least decent….say compared to inside linebackers) Hayward will be counted on to make a bigger impact, which is fine in my opinion since he’s a high draft pick and he’s played so well. If he falters, well that’s fine since the Packers can then resign a very good slot corner at below market price. If he shines, even better cause then the Packers have a rising star on the outside.

      • Thegreatreynoldo

        Interesting response. It’s true no team in a cap era can be stocked at all positions. We’re probably in basic agreement that GB can get by with what we’ve got at CB. I hope I am not being overly sanguine: “optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation.” Comparing any position to ILB is really almost unfair- ILB is a black hole unless one projects CM3 there. OLB is a bit thin with the probable departure of Peppers after this year unless one projects CM3 there as well. D-line is Daniels and 5 JAGs. We can get by there too, especially is Burnett is standing 7 yds from the LOS.

        So I advocate taking DTs, edge rushers, OTs, even RBs in a draft loaded with them, along with the obligatory ILB or two. Finding an ILB, DT, DE or OLB in the draft will help overall.

  • Savage38

    Wish they would have kept Rolle.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      I’m a little confused as to why everyone is so enamored with Rolle, he was one of the worst cornerbacks on the Packers in the preseason (only grading out well at pass rushing, -3.0 at pass coverage) and then only played one good game with Houston.

  • Razer

    Without a resigned Tramon Williams this secondary will struggle. Aside from talent and depth, we will see an increase in the confusion that seems to plague our secondary. If Dom wants to play man on the outside, Shields and Williams were fairly effective. I would hate to see us try to replace two good bodies with rookies or ex basketball players. We need at least one more year to get someone ready.

    • Thomas Hobbes

      From what I’ve gathered, cornerbacks don’t really make too many defensive calls, it’s really the inside linebackers and safeties who do, so there shouldn’t be that much more confusion on defense. Even with Williams gone, if you have Shields, Hayward and Hyde as your top three, that’t not the end of the world is it?

  • croatpackfan

    Tramon is still out there. No much interests from the other teams. Seattle and Saints found their CBs, so the best option will be to come back home and get what is offered, if he wants to play.. Also, there is some other, younger CBs still as UFAs, so I think we will see Tramon again in Packers uniform!

    • Thomas Hobbes

      It’s looking pretty good if you want Tramon back since as you’ve mentioned, the 1st and maybe even 2nd round of free agency has come and gone. One negative is that that current market for cornerbacks has exploded after being depressed last year; with Revis, Browner, Cromartie and Williams all signing huge deals Williams does have a little more leverage in negotiations, although Williams is definitely on a lower tier than them.

      • croatpackfan

        Yes, but if he can’t find team, and still want to play only what he can do to come back for 4 mil. per year 2 years and low guaranteed money… That is how I see!