Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #10 – Who Starts at Cornerback?

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Sam Shields is coming off a great 2012 season, but how will he fare in 2013?
Sam Shields is coming off a great 2012 season, but how will he fare in 2013?

Headed into training camp, the Packers’ depth at cornerback is not in question, but which players find the field is something to keep an eye on.

Returning from last season is Casey Hayward, who led the team with six interceptions. Hayward took over as the team’s nickelback when Charles Woodson suffered a broken collarbone, and the rookie went on to finish third in the voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. In May, we put Hayward’s rookie season under the microscope and looked ahead to what he has in store for his sophomore campaign.

The training camp competition at cornerback will feature Hayward battling it out against Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Davon House. But of all possible scenarios, it’s hard to imagine one in which Hayward is the odd-man out.

Last season, the Packers led the NFL in nickel and dime usage. ESPN Stats & Information, the team used five or more defensive backs on 66.8 percent of the plays.

This would suggest that three of the four players will emerge from the competition and become a part of the rotation. However, the team is four-deep at the position for the first time in recent memory, so it’s certainly possible that all four players will see the field, depending on the matchup.

Williams, the now-30-year-old elder statesman of the group, has started 66 games in the past five seasons. But after suffering a shoulder injury in 2011, Williams hasn’t played at 100 percent the past two seasons. According to JSOnline.com, he has worked his way back to being closer to full strength.

And without Charles Woodson in the fold, Williams, in some capacity, will take on a larger leadership role in the secondary.

Question: Which three players “start” at cornerback?

Shields signed his restricted free agent tender to remain with the team in 2013, but he and the Packers have yet to agree on a long-term extension, perhaps in part because they still have a largely unknown commodity in House.

Last summer, the position battle focused on the starting spot opposite Williams. Prior to suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason opener, House appeared to be in line to win the job. Shields capitalized on House being sidelined and, after a disappointing 2012, had a great rebound year.

Best guess: Tramon Williams, Davon House, Casey Hayward

Despite having two consecutive slightly disappointing seasons, Williams is still a good player. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a 74.3 passer rating when throwing at Williams–tenth-best among the 39 cornerbacks who played at least 75 percent of their team’s snaps.

If two of the spots are spoken for by Williams and Hayward, the third spot will come down to House and Shields. And if both players are healthy, the competition will be one to watch throughout the summer.

House, headed into his third season, has 11 game appearances. But despite the fact that Shields is the more proven player after appearing in 39 games through three years, House had the upper hand on Shields last summer.

If he’s healthy, I think Davon House is a starter.


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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.


15 thoughts on “Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #10 – Who Starts at Cornerback?

  1. I say Williams, Hayward, Shields with House seeing significant playing time. Shields had a outstanding year last yr and was arguably our best all around corner if you add willingness to tackle to the stats and he definitely helps to contain the deep ball. So that’s my prediction

    1. No doubt – Shields is coming off a great year, and it’s hard for me to predict him to “come off the bench,” but I just can’t get last summer out of my head. House looked like he was poised to have the year Hayward had until the injury.

      1. I love House more than anyone, but that was 2 wks in training camp, whereas Shields has been doing it for 2 outstanding seasons and one mediocre one. My guess is Shields and Tramon are starters, Hayward in his slot role and House looking for reps where ever he can get them.

        1. With Megatron and Marshall in the division you got to like House’s height. I think this gives him an edge on the #1 job. When we have a lead, Shields speed puts him on the field. Heyward was too good last year to be anywhere but third on the depth chart. Don’t be too quick to write off Tramon for money – he’s a pro, he’ll do what it takes to keep his job.

          In Ted we trust!

          1. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if Tramon wins a job this year. I think that’s almost a given. But if Tramon wants to stick beyond this year, he has to become a playmaker again.

            House will compete like a mother, I just think Shield and Williams are too far ahead. I love House’s game tho and think he could start next year if Tramon is released, which I kind of expect. If Tramon steps up he can stick and I would be more than happy. And if House wins a starting job I’ll be very happy since I wanted the Packers to draft him well before it actually happened.

            Not writing anyone off, just giving my $.02 worth./

  2. Tough call but good dilemna to have when you legitimately have 4 guys you can choose from. TW has to overcome the limitations of the nerve damage to keep his starting role. Shields has to stay hungry. Heyward has to avoid the ‘sophomore jinx’. House has to realize his potential.

    All are doable at this point and should that come to pass, I see the corners as being a strength of the defense this season.

    1. Agreed. I think CB is the strongest position on the roster, one through four.

      1. IMO this will be Tramons last season in GB, unless he plays like ’10. His salary is too high to justify unless he’s a true shutdown CB again. Give Shields his money and move on unless Williams becomes a difference maker again.

    2. You make a solid argument. Since this is all conjecture, I believe the three starters will be Hayward, House, and Shileds, with T. Williams taking a hefty pay cut or be released. He has been average at best the past two years and appears no better than a back-up at this juncture…

    1. The limitation will be that 3 of the players (Williams, Shields, and House) are classic cover corners. To be the 6th DB on the field or to run a 4CB nickle packeage with Burnett as the only true safety requires that one of those three be able to act as a ‘dime safety’ type and provide support against the run. We know Hayward can do that — even if he winds up being one of the two top corners, they will likely slide him into the slot in nickle and dime packages. The question is whether Williams, Shields or House can prove to be better tacklers than they have been in the past.

  3. I’d bet Tramon and Shields are the starters. Hayward inside at Nickel. House comes in on dime.

    Tramon is gone after this season, and Shields gets his money. House and Shields then start with Hayward inside next year.

    If House doesn’t play a ton, that’s not a terrible thing as he’s under contract for 2 more years. Shields needs to play. If he doesn’t, how can we know what we’ve really got before we’d have to pay him the big bucks.

    GB has a good problem on its hands.

    1. Pretty much what I said. Nice competition next year between House snd Hayward for the other starting job opposite Shields.

  4. Tramon and Sam outside, Casey in the slot… If I had to bet. Davon as the dime back.

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