Packers must Significantly Upgrade Cornerbacks
By Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~Aaron Rodgers carried the undermanned Packers to the NFC Championship game. True, Mason Crosby’s foot, and Jared Cook’s toes had a lot to do with taking that final step, but it was Rodgers who put the Packers’ on his back and took them to his third NFC Title game (2010, 2014, 2016).
Had the pass defense been good, or average, perhaps they would have reached the Super Bowl for the second time in Rodgers’ career. Instead of average, or even subpar, they were atrocious. It was evident in Tennessee, in Washington, in Dallas, and in Atlanta twice. It also was apparent in Minnesota and vs Detroit in Green Bay early in the season.
Losing Sam Shields was devastating, and it had a domino effect. Letting Casey Hayward go seemed logical at the time (unless the team was aware then that Shield’ head was as fragile as a raw egg).
Now it’s quite apparent that the Packers have to significantly bolster their cornerbacks. Yes this is the case despite Head of Scouting Ted Thompson using his number one and number two picks on cornerbacks just two drafts ago.
Remember, it was just two years ago that his first pick was Arizona State ‘free safety’ Damarious Randall.
Then everyone was equally shocked when he grabbed basketball player-turned football player Quinten Rollins with the next selection.
One year ago, cornerback appeared to be a very deep and talented position for the Packers. That all changed when Shields bumped his head in week one and never played again.
Then Randall and Rollins were torched and beaten, and battered, all year long. Only Ladarius Gunter was able to stay on the field, and despite his tenacity, he with his 4.7 speed, was outmatched by the premiere superstar WR’s in the NFL like Julio Jones and Dez Bryant. Gunter cannot be faulted for this.
Thompson can. It’s time for Thompson to dip into the free agency pool and bring in an A-grade, A-priced cornerback like New England’s Logan Ryan, A.J. Bouye from Houston, or Stephon Gilmore from Buffalo.
Bette Marston: Green Bay Packers. Green Bay rarely spends big in free agency, but that makes Gilmore an even better fit. The Packers can probably get away with signing the sixth-year player for less than market value, which would bring crucial stability to the Packers’ secondary.
Bouye is 6-foot-0, 191 pounds and just 25 years old. He had a fantastic season for the Texans last year and is a strong, physical coverage corner. He could command close to $12 million a season to obtain. –I would rather spend 10-12 million on his skills (and age) than I would spend 8+ million for the aging and breaking down T.J. Lang. -Brian E Murphy
The Packers struggled mightily in coverage last season. Sam Shields suffered a concussion in Week 1 and missed the rest of the season; Green Bay has since released the veteran. Neither Damarious Randall nor Quinten Rollins really played up to expectations in their second seasons.
Rollins had the third-worst success rate in the NFL among qualified cornerbacks in our charting at just 36 percent, and Randall turned in a sub-50-percent season as well. Both players missed time because of groin injuries throughout the regular season, and neither was at full strength during the playoffs. The injuries and ineffectiveness forced LaDarius Gunter into the spotlight. He had a solid season for an ex-undrafted free agent who played all of eight defensive snaps in 2015, but he doesn’t look like a long-term starter.
Essentially, the unexpected loss of Shields forced everyone else on the roster into a role for which they were not quite ready, and the end result was a porous secondary. Green Bay finished 31st in DVOA covering wide receivers, giving up the second-most passing yards and the fourth-most passing plays of 15 yards or more in the NFL last season.
It’s worth noting that both Randall and Rollins played better as rookies in 2015, and there is a reason they were drafted in the first and second round, respectively. Still, entering next season with Randall and Rollins as the top two cornerbacks should make Packers fans nervous. — Bryan Knowles